What is prolotherapy?

Prolotherapy, which is short for “proliferative therapy,” is a sophisticated method of Regenerative Injection Therapy where natural solutions, such as high concentration dextrose, are delivered to areas of injury to restart and maximize the body’s own wound-healing processes. This healing technique is most often applied to painful and injured joints, ligaments, and tendons to encourage the restoration of normal, healthy tissue. As such, prolotherapy can help people to avoid surgery in some cases.

Where and how does prolotherapy work?

Dr. Gary Kaplan and Dr. Jeff Patterson
treating a patient at the Hackett-Hemwall
Prolotherapy Mission in Honduras.
The amount of clinical research on prolotherapy has increased substantially over the last several years, and multiple studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in treating neck pain and instability; low back pain; sacroiliac dysfunction; chronic groin pain; osteoarthritis of the knee and hand; tennis elbow (lateral epidondylosis); knee tendon, ligament and meniscus injuries; and Achilles tendon injury. In everyday clinical practice, prolotherapy is used to treat painful conditions in virtually every major area of the body, often with excellent results. This is because prolotherapy seems to stimulate the same innate healing response in any joint, ligament, or tendon, regardless of its location. The healing response itself is triggered when the prolotherapy solution causes the injured tissue to release specific growth factors that attract tissue-healing cells to the injury site.

Who can benefit from prolotherapy?

Good candidates for prolotherapy include people who have joint or muscle pain that has not responded well to other treatments, such as physical therapy, manual adjustments or massage, cortisone injections or surgery. The root causes of the pain can be wide ranging, including, for example: osteoarthritis, sports injuries, post-surgical complications, ligament laxity from hypermobility, and direct trauma caused by an event such as a fall or car accident.

What is a prolotherapy treatment like?

After answering any questions a patient may ask, the doctor will examine the area to be treated and may note a few anatomical “landmarks” on the skin surface with a pen. The treatment area is then thoroughly cleansed and sterilized, so treatment can begin. Although prolotherapy involves injections, sometimes to multiple areas, it is generally very well tolerated. Because the areas of the body that are being treated are already injured and sensitive, the injections typically cause some temporary pain and discomfort. Our highly trained doctors take several measures to minimize this discomfort, such as using the smallest and thinnest needles possible, prescribing medications to reduce pain, and sometimes prescribing anesthetic creams which numb the skin before the procedure. Since the body’s natural healing response can be a slow process, it may take two to four monthly treatments before patients notice significant improvement. The results, however, are often long lasting and may even be permanent in some cases.

What is the bottom line?

As with any other medical treatment, prolotherapy does not work in all cases. But it can provide long-term pain relief in situations where multiple other therapies have been unsuccessful. When performed as part of a comprehensive treatment strategy that maximizes your healing potential by improving your overall health, prolotherapy can be the catalyst that helps to bring you out of pain and back into the game of life.

Research links:

Please click on the links below to review the peer-reviewed medical literature published on prolotherapy.

The use of prolotherapy to treat knee osteoarthritis, as reported in the Annals of Family Medicine, May/2013.

The use of prolotherapy to treat knee osteoarthritis, as reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, April/2012.

The use of prolotherapy to treat tennis elbow, as reported in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Jan/2013.

Using prolotherapy to treat tennis elbow, as reported in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, May/2008.