What is Prolotherapy?
Prolotherapy is a nonsurgical treatment used to strengthen and tighten the ligaments and tendons that hold bones and muscles in place. Through a series of injections that stimulate the body’s natural healing response, prolotherapy restores proper joint alignment and relieves pressure on sensitive tissues. The end result is dramatic and lasting pain relief.
Unlike anti-inflammatory drugs, prolotherapy does not mask pain. Instead, by correcting the underlying problem, it eradicates it.
Prolotherapy Relieves Chronic Pain
If you suffer from back pain, sciatica, a nagging sports injury, or any type of joint pain, you could benefit from prolotherapy, also called sclerotherapy or regenerative injection therapy.
Prolotherapy relieves musculoskeletal pain by addressing it at the source: weakness in the ligaments and tendons. Ligaments and tendons are tough, fibrous bands of tissue that connect bone to bone, or bone to muscle. They are the stabilizers of the musculoskeletal system. As long as they are strong and taut, they keep bones, joints, and muscles in place, allowing for pain-free smooth movement.
However, when the ligaments and tendons become injured, weak, or lax, these other structures become unstable and move out of position. The resulting misalignment impinges on nerves and blood vessels, damaging tissues and causing pain. Lasting relief can only be obtained by restoring the proper alignment to these structures and taking the pressure off sensitive tissues.
How Does Prolotherapy Work?
Prolotherapy involves injections of a mildly irritating solution into the painful area. The irritant, usually a dextrose-based solution, triggers the body’s natural healing response and causes the proliferation of new collagen fibers, which are the building blocks of ligaments and tendons. (The “prolo” in prolotherapy stands for proliferative.) As tissue growth continues, the ligaments and tendons become thicker and stronger, regaining their ability to stabilize the joint and take the pressure off sensitive nerve endings. Pain subsides, range of motion returns, and cartilage degeneration slows down. Sometimes one treatment is enough to achieve complete pain relief, but it usually takes several treatments, administered a few weeks apart, to produce sufficient collagen growth to relieve pain and restore normal function.
How Does Prolotherapy Compare to Drug Therapy?
The most commonly used drugs for musculoskeletal pain are prescription or over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). As their name suggests, NSAIDs relieve joint pain by countering inflammation. Unfortunately, because inflammation is the first stage of your body’s healing process, these drugs may hinder recovery. NSAIDs are notorious for their gastrointestinal side effects and they actually destroy cartilage, the cushioning material that protects joints. Most important, NSAIDs do nothing to address the underlying laxity of ligaments and tendons which is the source of chronic pain.
For more severe or chronic musculoskeletal pain, doctors sometimes prescribe corticosteroids. Like NSAIDs, corticosteroids work by countering inflammation. However, they also suppress immune function, increasing your susceptibility to infection and interfering with healing. Long-term use of these drugs is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and vision problems.
Unlike anti-inflammatory drugs, prolotherapy does not mask pain. Instead, by correcting the underlying problem, it eradicates it. This extremely safe therapy has none of the risks of NSAIDs and corticosteroids, and its only side effect is mild discomfort during the first few days of healing.