Prolotherapy – Could It Be Your Solution for Joint Pain?

Prolotherapy – Could It Be Your Solution for Joint Pain?

Dr. Liz Woolford

It’s been more than 8 years since I started training to use prolotherapy for patients with joint pain and ligament laxity. Time sure does fly! We incurred a shortage of dextrose (one of the necessary components of prolotherapy injections) this spring and had to suspend injections for a few months. But, I’m happy to say that dextrose is in stock, and I can again give prolotherapy injections.

Patients are often sent by referral – through a friend or family member or practitioner in the area. They also come from within our existing practice – patients that have not responded to other treatments such as medical acupuncture, FSM (frequency specific microcurrent), and chiropractic care. Or, they find me by searching online for a local prolotherapist.

Many patients have common questions about prolotherapy –

  • What conditions can be treated? What Joints?
  • How does it feel?
  • What to do before and after treatment?
  • How many treatments will I need?
  • How will I feel after a treatment?
  • What is the cost of a treatment?

You can find those answers by clicking here.

The majority of patients have 2-5 treatments to an area about a month apart with steady improvement each time. Some feel no changes until their second or third treatment; others see immediate results. Most patient are happy with their results. If a patient is not seeing results, I will recommend another treatment course that may be more beneficial. My ultimate goal is to help each patient achieve optimal results- even if they are not accomplished through prolotherapy.

Young athletes (high school and college) seem to do the best, but others ages 40 to 60 also do well. They often just take a few more treatments to be satisfied with their results. The oldest patient I’ve treated was 86 years old. She had her knee treated in her 70’s and did well until the past year when she needed more treatment to maintain her desired activity level.

What about PRP or other injections?

Another question I often get pertains to using PRP (platelet-rich plasma) prolotherapy compared to dextrose prolotherapy. My training through the University of Wisconsin Hemwall Hackett Foundation taught me to try dextrose first for the majority of patients. There are several reasons for this. Unless a patient has a complete ligament tear, is immunocompromised, or in a big hurry to return to full function, there is no clear advantage to using PRP. The costs are higher as well – about $750 on average per PRP treatment compared to $250 on average for dextrose prolotherapy.

I conducted an informal experiment on some of my dextrose prolotherapy patients interested in trying PRP. We had 5 of them come for a PRP treatment for the cost of dextrose prolotherapy and asked them to compare the experience to previous treatments. None of them noticed a significant advantage to using their platelets as time progressed. All felt that the injections were more painful. For these reasons, I’ve elected to stay with using dextrose. If someone needs PRP for the above-mentioned reasons, I can always refer them out to another provider.

Steroid injections are another option available to patients, but I would recommend considering prolotherapy first for various reasons. Primarily, steroids can decrease inflammation but have also been shown to also cause increased cartilage breakdown in joints, leading to more problems later on.

A Success Story

As with most things in medicine, there have been some miraculous results along the way. One woman was referred to me by her chiropractor in Oregon. She had relocated to Cincinnati, and he felt she would do well receiving prolotherapy for her low back. She reported pain for the previous 3 years, and after only 1 treatment has had absolutely no pain! She presented for her 2nd session, and after talking to her and re-examining her back, I decided not to do more injections at the time. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I say! She has since come back in to see me to have other joints treated. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you how gratifying prolotherapy is for my patients and for me. Once a dancer from one of the traveling off-Broadway troupes came to me for treatment for his knee. He had a large effusion (collection of fluid) around his knee from dancing on his degenerative joint and has had prolotherapy around the country in various cities in which he performs. I was able to drain the fluid for him, making sure it wasn’t infected and then giving him prolotherapy in and around his knee to perform in his show using a brace that night. He left feeling better and grateful for the treatment.

Prolotherapy isn’t for everyone, however. Sometimes other treatments are a better choice initially. For that reason, seeking out a practitioner and a place where you have options and guidance makes the best sense. I hope you will look to the Alliance Integrative Medicine for your care and am happy to help you on your way.

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