Prolotherapy, also referred to as regenerative injection therapy, has been used for over 100 years. U.S. general surgeon George Hackett has been using prolotherapy since the 1950's completing many clinical trials over a 30 year period on its impressive efficacy for pain management. Other clinical literature supports the use of prolotherapy for low back pain, severe tendinopathies and osteoarthritis. Once you damage your joints, it is definitely not the end! Clinical studies of radiographic images (ie x-ray/MRI/CT) show an increase in cartilage thickness and a reduction of joint space loss following a series of prolotherapy injections.
The core principle of prolotherapy is that a low dose solution is injected into damaged or painful ligaments, tendons, muscles, and joint spaces causing a secondary healing cascade to occur. The solutions that are injected may vary, but the basic healing mechanism remains the same; ligaments and tendons become tighter and stronger holding joints more securely. Plus cartilage becomes thicker. Previously healed tissue is reorganized to reduce scar formation and increase functionality. The body needs a framework to work off of in order to heal. If the frame work is removed, the body has no foundation on which to heal. Therefore if the meniscus was removed for example, prolotherapy wouldn't be able to stimulate the re-growth of a new meniscus.
A common condition that is seen in North America is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability and is the "wear and tear" of the joint causing degeneration of the tissue over time. This means that each individual joint will be affected differently and will have different levels of degeneration. Conditions similar to osteoarthritis are often thought of as treatable with pain killers, and no chance of repairing the affected tissue. Luckily, this is not true. In instances such as this, it may take up to six injections to see significant healing of the joint tissue. Any tissue that has excessive damage will take longer.
So after learning more about the science behind prolotherapy, who can or can't benefit from this therapy? And how long does it take to see results? Anyone who has instability of a joint, tears in cartilage or pain around an area should consider prolotherapy as an option. It can also be used as a preventative measure for osteoarthritis in individuals that have a history of sport injuries, vehicle accidents or other types of trauma that resulted in sprains and strains. As for how long it may take to see results, it depends on the extent of the damage of the affected tissue. Treatments are generally spaced between 4-6 weeks apart to allow optimal healing. The amount of injections will also vary. Every treatment is different and needs to be tailored to the patient's condition and needs. However, it is a myth that there is nothing you can do for damaged or injured joints.
As always, this post is not designed to diagnose or treat you, but instead to give you something to think about. Please book a consult with a naturopathic doctor prior to changing, starting, or stopping medications or protocols.
David Rabago, Andrew Slattengren and Aleksandra Zgierska. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice. 2010.
Lane M. Sanderson and Alan Bryant. Effectiveness and Safety of Prolotherapy Injections For Management of Lower Limb Tendinopathy and fasciopathy: a systematic review. 2015.
Ross A. Hauser, et al. A systemic Review of Dextrose Prolotherapy for Chroni Musculoskeletal Pain. 2016.