Dr. Carolyn Kochert, M.D.
American Board Of Pain Medicine | American Board Of Anesthesiology
Prolotherapy is an advanced, nonsurgical medical procedure that treats chronic pain caused by weak or damaged connective tissues—namely ligaments, tendons and cartilage.
"Prolo" is short for "proliferation," because the treatment causes the proliferation (rapid-growth formation) of new ligament tissue in targeted areas.
Ligaments are the structural "rubber bands" that hold bones to bones in 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 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 tissues that connect muscles to bones. And, just like ligaments, tendons can also suffer injury and cause pain.
It involves a dextrose (sugar-water) solution, injected into the ligament or tendon at the point of attachment to the bone. This causes a localized inflammation in these weak areas—which, then, increases the blood supply and flow of nutrients that stimulate the tissue’s natural repair process.
Historically, the prolotherapy "technique" was conceived by Hippocrates, as he used it on soldiers with dislocated, torn shoulder joints. His method was to stick a hot poker into the joint, after which the joint would miraculously heal.
Of course, prolotherapy has evolved dramatically since the days of hot pokers, but the principle is the same—tell the body to repair itself, as it naturally has the ability to do.