As indicated by the title, I am always amazed by prolotherapy for its ability to stimulate the body to heal itself. No drugs involved. The mechanisms by which prolotherapy affects the pain response and injury to the ligaments, tendons, and nerves is actually quite complex. But the products we use to inject are almost profound in their simplicity.
Combine locations of the body that undergo constant strain, movement, stress, and overuse with a poor blood supply and you have a perfect setup for chronic injury, lack of complete healing and… pain. Add overuse of anti-inflammatory medications (advil, steroids) and it can even worsen the scenario. The locations: ligaments, tendons, and joints.
The basics of this treatment involve injections of dextrose (sugar) at concentrations that stimulate, or re-stimulate to be more accurate, healing of soft tissue injuries. The solution both creates a very focal inflammatory effect (you need inflammation to get proper healing) and stimulation of soft tissue building cells. These injections are placed at, or near, ligament or tendon attachments to the bone, where there is often damaged, weak, torn, or stretched tissue.
A typical scenario I describe to patients is what happens following whiplash. The bowling ball weight of the head is thrown forwards and/or backwards, causing immense strain and stretch to the ligaments and tendons at the back of the head. Xrays and MRIs often don’t show much, and you are given pain meds and muscle relaxers and sent to physical therapy. If you are lucky you see a chiropractor and/or acupuncturist. For many people, these treatments work well and they are back to normal in a few months. For some, however, they notice cycles of chronic pain and muscle tension, that improves temporarily but continues to relapse. This is a classic example of the muscles (bone movers) taking over for weak, damaged, or stretched ligaments (bone stabilizers). When we do an exam, we frequently find tender areas along the skull or other boney areas, where the ligaments attach, not just in the muscles. The muscle stay tight, get relaxed from treatment, then tighten up again when the ligaments don’t stabilize. This is also common in those people who get repeated chiropractic adjustments (beyond a typical treatment series) that just don’t seem to “hold.”
The above is an example of a force trauma causing ligament and tendon stretch or microtears. Other conditions that are similar, but have slightly different mechanisms are chronic strains (tennis elbow, achilles tendinitis) where repeated stress or movement at an area have caused chronic degeneration of the connecting tissues. Osteoarthritis is another area that responds well to prolotherapy, due to the mechanism of cartilage breakdown in the joint.
Prolotherapy and chiropractic care are quite complimentary modalities, in fact, I believe almost necessary to be done in conjunction with each other. I am always happy to meet briefly with potential patients to describe this procedure further, or assess if it is worthwhile for you to schedule an actual visit and exam. Your chiropractor can also help decide if it would be beneficial for you at a given point in your treatment plan.
Dr. Minarik offers no-charge 10 minute phone or in-office consultations to answer additional questions about prolotherapy and your condition. Call either clinic to schedule!