Prolotherapy is also known as regenerative therapy or nonsurgical ligament reconstruction and is a treatment for chronic pain. “Prolo” is short for proliferation, because the treatment causes the proliferation (growth, formation) of new ligament tissue in areas where it has become weak.
Ligaments are the structural “rubber bands” that hold two bones together at the joints. Ligaments can become weak or injured and may not heal back to their original strength or endurance. This is largely because the blood supply to the ligaments is limited, and therefore healing is slow and not always complete. To further complicate this, ligaments also have many nerve endings and therefore the person will feel pain at the areas where the ligaments are damaged or loose. Tendons are the name give to tissue which connects muscles to bones, and in the same manner tendons may also become injured, and cause pain.
Prolotherapy uses dextrose (sugar water) or other solutions which are injected into the ligament or tendon where it attaches to the bone. It can also be injected into the joints themselves. This causes a localized inflammation in these weak or degenerated areas which then increases the blood supply and flow of nutrients and stimulates the tissue to repair itself.
Historical review shows that a version of this technique was first used by Hippocrates on soldiers with dislocated, torn shoulder joints. He would stick a hot poker into the joint, and it would then miraculously heal normally. Of course, we don’t use hot pokers today, but the principle is similar – get the body to repair itself, an innate ability that the body has.
The response to treatment varies from individual to individual and depends upon one’s healing ability. Some people may only need a few treatments while others may need 10 or more. The average number of treatments is 4-6 for an area treated. The best thing to do is to have a trained physician evaluate you to see if you are an appropriate candidate. After a few treatments, your doctor will assess your response and offer further recommendations. Dr. Duncan has successfully treated a wide range of patients with Prolotherapy throughout the region for over 20 years. Referring providers include Triangle Orthopedics, now Emerge Ortho, and numerous primary care providers.