Dr. Goddard explains Prolotherapy and its benefits
Did you know that the human body already has the power to cure itself from injury or disease? Swelling caused by bee stings and twisted ankles are the underlying principles of prolotherapy at work.
Prolotherapy is a natural, non-surgical method of assisting the body to heal injured tendons and ligaments. It has been utilized in medicine for nearly 100 years. Prolotherapy, or “proliferative therapy,” is considered to be the first of the regenerative injection therapies. It aids your body in the creation of new cells, which strengthen lax or torn tendons and ligaments. This treatment is designed to promote inflammation to trigger a prolonged healing response. Although it may surprise you, inflammation is your ally when it comes to expediting the healing process!
You might wonder why you still have pain in an injured area or why that area remains weak, even after a resting period of weeks or months. The answer lies in the simple fact that both ligaments and tendons by nature have poor circulation, and it is this lack of blood supply which deprives them of the nutrients they need to heal properly. Although these weakened areas may have little or no blood flow, they have lots of nerves. When ligaments become relaxed and weak, these nerves within and around the ligaments and tendons become stretched and irritated and consequently chronic or intermittent pain can result.
Prolotherapy can help repair the weakened ligaments and tendons of a chronic injury and by doing so, alleviate or even eliminate the cause of that pain. It also helps if you wish to strengthen certain areas of your body as a preventive measure for an active lifestyle. Cortisone and steroid injections inhibit inflammation. This often provides symptom relief but is not designed to trigger long-term healing at the root level. Prolotherapy induces inflammation rather than inhibiting it. The increased blood flow from the inflammation contains growth factors to recruit stem cells and induce new tendon and ligament growth. The treatment is nonsurgical and is administered through injection right here in our office.
Inflammation can be good or bad. The bad version is chronic inflammation which typically goes on for years and causes problems like degeneration in joints and plays a role in many of the common chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes. The good version is acute inflammation which the body produces to achieve a healing response.
Say you hit your thumb with a hammer; the body registers the trauma. The body immediately unleashes a cascade of biological factors to trigger the inflammatory response – heat, pain, redness, swelling – to heal injured tissue while killing bacteria which could cause infection. As the area heals, the inflammation goes away. Voila.
Prolotherapy mimics that acute inflammatory reaction to trigger a healing response.
At the Osteopathic Center, we perform this treatment under local anesthesia by injecting a sclerosing agent – most commonly we use a dextrose-based solution. Dextrose, a form of sugar, is a natural irritant; the body will mount an inflammatory response to get rid of it.
In contrast to cortisone or steroid injections, prolotherapy promotes inflammation rather than inhibiting it. The increased blood flow from the inflammation contains growth factors to recruit stem cells and induce new tendon and ligament growth.
Each person’s response to prolotherapy is different. The number of treatments varies depending upon the severity of injury and the type of sclerosing agent used. With the commonly used dextrose solution, 4-6 treatments are the norm. (By comparison, 2-3 treatments are the norm when working with platelet rich plasma). Some people need only one treatment with prolotherapy, while others with complicated situations may require as many as ten or twenty. It just depends upon your individual case.
Almost everyone returns to work the same day of treatment with only minimal residual soreness from the injections. It is normal to experience muscle soreness for up to a few weeks after the treatment. Four weeks after the procedure, people begin to see improvements in pain and evidence of strengthening. If not, then usually that means one treatment was not enough to completely heal the ligament or tendon. A re-evaluation is typically scheduled around week six, as this is the standard expected recovery for most patients.
In the hands of a competent practitioner, prolotherapy is extremely safe. The benchmark for safety was provided by Dr. Gustav Hemwall. He practiced prolotherapy for more than 40 years and treated over 10,000 patients – that amounts to some 4 million injections. He reported no serious side effects due to the treatment. The most common side effect is muscle stiffness for a few days after the injections.
Researchers theorize that prolotherapy is actually safer in the long run compared to enduring the effects of chronic pain. Today, nearly 100 years after the development of prolotherapy, no serious side-effects have been reported in medical literature despite the millions of prolotherapy treatments given. Researchers theorize prolotherapy is so harmless, it’s actually safer in the long run than enduring the effects of chronic pain on the body. Today, nearly 100 years after the development of prolotherapy, no serious side-effects have been reported in medical literature despite the millions of prolotherapy treatments people have received. Prolotherapy is about as risk-free as it gets.
Almost anyone, at any age, can receive prolotherapy. There are very few cases in which a person would not be a suitable candidate. A consultation is necessary prior to receiving treatment to determine if it is right for you.
Today you have more choices than were available 10, 20 years ago. These choices differ in price and in outcomes. For example, we’ve seen some complicated things go away with one prolotherapy treatment, but we don’t see that often. Will you be that one? We have no way of knowing. Prolotherapy is the basis from which we learned that the body is capable of regenerating tissue when we empower it to heal. Platelet rich plasma, or PRP for short, was the next big advance in regenerative injections. It harnesses the power of healing using your own blood. When PRP became available, many well-known athletes including Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Ray Lewis, Payton Manning, and Hines Ward repeatedly used this newer therapy due to its ability to boost physical performance post-injury, with minimal to zero downtime. And stem cells? They cost more, yet the number of people and the number of conditions that improve are much greater.
Prolotherapy is in the hundreds of dollars, PRP is in the $1,000-$2,000 range, and stem cells run $2,000 and up.
Schedule a consultation with us to learn more about how the benefits of these therapies apply to your individual situation.