A few years ago the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report which revealed that a minimum of 116 million people in the United States suffer from serious chronic pain each year. The problem, which has been described as a “public health crises,” occurs as a result of complications from an array of medical condition and injuries.
The IOM estimates that the lost productivity, medical costs and lost work time can be as much as high as $635 billion annually. Other studies show that lower back pain rates just behind the common cold as a cause of missed work.
The problem is that traditional medicine simply cannot provide enough relief for chronic pain sufferers. Consequently, patients end up turning to an array of alternative therapies such as massages, herbal remedies and acupuncture in order to gain some measure of relief.
While these alternative therapies may give some sort of relief from the pain, they do little to regenerate the damaged tissue. There is a relatively new treatment option called Prolotherapy that has increasingly gained recognition as an alternative treatment for chronic pain, including tendonitis, arthritis and chronic sprain.
What's in the Prolotherapy Injection?
Conventional pain management therapy, such as cortisone shots or other medications are injected into the joint or pain area in order to reduce inflammation. Prolotherapy, which is short for “proliferation therapy,” has been around since the 1940s. The term actually describes the rapid production or “proliferation” of collagen and cartilage--the soft tissues that quicken the body’s natural healing abilities.
A typical prolotherapy injection consists of a solution made of dextrose (sugar) and water—and sometimes other harmless substances such as vitamins—which can be used to temporarily increased inflammation and activates the natural healing mechanism in the body.
How Does the Procedure Work?
The procedure can be performed by a number of physicians, including family practitioners, osteopathic physicians and physical –medicine specialists. Prior to the procedure, your doctor will probably advise to stop taking medications, such as naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin, a minimum of 2–3 days before the procedure.
To begin the procedure the doctor administers a local anesthetic. Although most people tolerate the procedure well, the injection fluid may also contain a mild anesthetic like lidocaine or the doctor will give the patient a sedative to minimize any pain.
The physician injects the treatment into tendon and ligament structures. As a result of the “minor injury”, the natural regenerative qualities of the body and tissue kicks in to produce collagen and cartilage, which decreases the pain, improves the patient’s joint stability as well as range of motion for different types of pain, including:
- Lower Back
The treatment protocol may require injection every four weeks. If the patient does not show improvement after 3-4 sessions, further treatment may be discontinued.
Prolotherapy Research Findings
Some physicians in the conventional medical establishment deride prolotherapy. Nonetheless, more doctors are beginning to realize its benefits as an effective treatment for chronic pain, including supporters at the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School.
Increasingly, multi-specialty groups, including family doctors, sports medicine physicians, physiotherapists, neurologists, anesthesiologists and orthopedic surgeons, have implemented prolotherapy into their treatment options due to the positive clinical experience and research reports.
Researchers at Ohio State University conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of the treatment. According to the report, researchers concluded that several high-quality studies verify the effectiveness of prolotherapy as a treatment for chronic low back pain. This is especially true when the treatment is used in combination with other treatment methodologies, such as corticosteroid injections or spinal manipulation.
The evidence also reveals that prolotherapy may also be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis and other painful musculoskeletal conditions.
How Safe Is the Treatment?
Prolotherapy treatment requires an injection with a needle. Inherently, there can be a small risk for infection or short-term irritation in the area of the injection. Nonetheless, the treatment has proven to be quite safe. The injection, which avoids nerves and blood vessels, goes directly into a joint or around the bone. The most common complaint concerns increased pain for 1-3 days.
Potential risks of the treatment, which vary depending on the treatment area, may include weakness, infections, nerve damage, permanent numbness, bleeding, spinal headaches, and allergic reactions. Nothing even close to what Dustin Hoffman experienced from Sir Laurence Olivier in "The Marathon Man." However, selecting an experienced doctor and medical facility to perform the treatment reduces the chances of any risk occurring, if at all.
Benefits of Prolotherapy
The treatment has the potential to improve the quality of your life by significantly reducing chronic pain—and without all of the side effect associated with pain management therapies such as cortisone. Successfully proliferation therapy treatment repairs the joint through the natural regenerative process and rebuilds healthy connective tissues in the treatment area, thus eliminating the need to for repeated injections.
Prolotherapy will not provide the answer for every person suffering from chronic pain, especially if it affects the entire body. To find out if this alternative treatment can work for you consult with a physician who specializes in this alternative pain management option. There may be other treatment options that will work for your particular
As with any form of medical treatment, you should consult with your physician before embarking on any treatment plan. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed accurate for the purposes of diagnosing your particular medical condition.