What is Prolotherapy?

Prolotherapy involves the injection of chemical irritant solutions such as dextrose or glycerin into the tendons, ligaments, and cartilage to promote regeneration of the damaged tissues.

You may have heard of prolotherapy before, or have just recently heard about it after doing a more extensive search of back pain treatments after not experiencing relief from more conventional treatments. Prolotherapy is short for proliferative therapy. This therapy is designed to reconstruct certain structures of the spine not through surgery or rehabilative therapies, but through the injection of chemicals that stimulate new growth of bone and connective tissues. This treatment is also known as regenerative injection therapy or reconstructive therapy.

As we age, or as a result of back injuries, the tendons and ligaments in our back may become stretched or loosen, reducing the structural stability of our entire spine. This is one of the reasons that back pain symptoms actually decrease as we get older - as a stiffening of the ligaments and tendons of the spine may actually have the effect of stabilize it, causing a decrease in back pain. For those of us who don't want to wait 30 years to experience back pain relief, prolotherapy may be a viable treatment. With this treatment, a series of injections using non-pharmacological solutions may help to stimulate new growth and regeneration to soft tissues and connective tissues such as tendons, ligament, and cartilage. These solutions have the effect of irritating the tissues that they are injected into, and the body's response to these irritants stimulates a series of reactions that result in new growth and repair of the tissues. These solutions may include glycerin, dextrose, manganese, calcium, and zinc among their ingredients. These ingredients are not normally toxic to the body, but in the joint space of musculoskeletal structures may cause the body to react. If successful, this treatment may restore cartilage and strengthen ligaments and tendons.

The tendons, ligaments, and cartilage in our body do not heal as quickly as other structures, such as bones and muscle, because they do not get the same supply of nutrients and as these highly vascular structures. For this reason, joints and ligaments and tendons may take months to fully heal from injuries, sprains, and tears - if ever. This contrasts to muscle sprains and strains - which may heal in days, and may even begin to feel significantly better after one massage therapy session.

Our bodies typically repair connective tissue through inflammation, which increases blood flow and the production of growth factors in an injured area to promote healing. But since ligaments, tendons and cartilage have such a poor supply of blood, they are less likely to get the oxygen and nutrients they need in order to stimulate the growth of new, healthy tissue and to remove the damaged cells from the area. Consequently, when there is trauma to these areas, they may take longer to regenerate, if completely at all. Though the redness and inflammation that we feel in these areas is a sign of increased blood flow there, very little of this supply of blood may actually be reaching the damaged parts involved with our pain. If incomplete healing occurs, the entire structure of the spine may be thrown out of alignment, and we may experience pain or disability.