Prolotherapy is part of an alternative medical field which can be categorized as Regenerative Medicine. As this name implies, this treatment focuses on the regeneration of tissue in a injured area by using natural substances. Prolotherapy is an alternative for some people desiring to avoid surgery. It has been effective for many people who have had ongoing problems related to tendons, ligaments, and cartilage damage. It is also a possible treatment for osteoarthritis, which adversely impacts the joints.
Although we are focusing on problems with the feet and ankles, prolotherapy is not limited to these areas only. It has proven to be effective for pain relief in the back, hip, elbow, knee, shoulder, and neck as well.
Supporters of prolotherapy claim that the standard treatments for pain in these areas is often not addressing the cause of the problem. The use of NSAID’s (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) is typically prescribed for tendon and ligament issues, including heel spurs and plantar fasciitis. These drugs do provide temporary pain relief, but don’t always help the underlying condition which is causing the pain. Inflammation signals the body that an area needs to be healed. But NSAID’s are working to reduce that inflammation. They may be effective at this, and provide temporary relief, but the root of the problem still may exist and cause further pain and inflammation.
Prolotherapy works in an entirely different way using all natural substances. A specialized injection is made into the problem area. Ultrasound is sometimes used to visually guide the physician to the source of the problem. The injection actually promotes a small amount of inflammation, which will signal the body to try to heal the weakened or damaged tissue. The inflammation increases blood flow to the area and promotes healing.
The injection usually contains all natural substances as well as dextrose (glucose) and an anesthetic solution. The mixture is geared to promote a vigorous growth response to the inflammation. In the foot, the weakened ligaments and tendons will experience increased blood flow and the healing process will be accelerated. The injection is targeted at the fibro-osseous junction, a sensory rich area where the tendons and ligaments actually attach to the bone. This is the source of most of the pain in the area.
The procedure can usually done in a doctor’s office or an outpatient center. There may be some discomfort in the area around the injection for up to three days, but the recovery time is minimal. Pain relief at the injection site is often treated with acetaminophen, which is a pain reliever and fever reducer. Most prolotherapists will want to perform a series of 4 to 6 injections, each separated by one to two weeks, in order to obtain the best results.
It is worth mentioning that prolotherapy has been successful in treating some cases of osetoarthrisits also. This is a degenerative joint disease which usually doesn’t respond well to surgery or medications. Prolotherapy works by stimulating the ligaments in a natural way and strengthening the surrounding tissues. This regenerative approach is much different than traditional treatments. Heel spurs are somewhat similar in nature to osteoarthritis, and they respond well to this kind of treatment also.
— Photo courtesy of aaomed.org