Joint Care's Natural Alternative

Prolotherapy injects new life into chronic pain management.

By Patrick Dougherty

September 2007

Do you have a bad back, creaky knees, an achy shoulder or pain in your neck? If so, you’re not alone. An estimated 76 million Americans suffer from some form of chronic musculo­skeletal pain due to osteo­arthritis, herniated discs and back problems, tendonitis, sports injuries, degener­ated joints and various other conditions. As tendons stretch, ligaments fray and cartilage breaks down, classic symptoms show up; the resulting aches and pains, stiffness, and loss of mobility can put a significant dent in your quality of life—even cause permanent disability.

Prolotherapy is a natural treatment that just might be the solution to your pain problems. With origins that predate conventional symptom-treating drugs by decades, it add­resses the root cause of pain by using an injection to stimulate the body’s inherent natural healing process. Through the formation of new connective tissue and strengthening of existing tissue, supporters of prolotherapy claim it can permanently eliminate the pain associated with musculoskeletal conditions while restoring flexibility, stability and function to weakened joints.

A Necessary Alternative
Prolotherapy may be poised for a surge given the controversy surrounding conventional answers to unrelieved pain: As the baby boomer population ages and becomes more pain-prone, the drug industry has responded by releasing powerful prescription COX-2 inhibitors and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). These medications fail to address the root causes of chronic soreness but have been remarkably effective in treating it—and so the number of prescriptions has skyrocketed to over 60 million a year, generating billions of dollars in profits.

But time has revealed that drug companies might have rushed to market too quickly. In 2004, Vioxx, the industry-leading NSAID, was pulled from shelves due to concerns over dangerous potential side effects in some users: By the FDA’s own estimation, Vioxx had likely caused over 100,000 heart attacks over the course of its five years on the market. One by one, other NSAIDs have also been associated with side effect risks, including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and renal complications—leaving sufferers seeking alternative pain management solutions.

In many ways, prolotherapy is the opposite of pharmaceutical treatments for musculoskeletal pain. “Prolotherapy versus the pharma­ceutical industry is a David-and-Goliath situation,” explains Dr. Mark Wheaton, prolotherapy expert, instructor and contributing author of Prolo Your Sports Injuries Away! Curing Sports Injuries & Enhancing Athletic Performance with Prolo­therapy (Beulah Land Press). “High-priced drugs promise a lot but deliver very little; they don’t heal anything. Prolotherapy is so powerful. People can get excellent results in pain and function, which is a permanent cure…not just masking pain, like what drugs do.”

So how does it work? In prolo­therapy, a small amount of a minor irritant—such as sugar water, dextrose solution or cod liver oil—is precisely injected around weak or painful joints and ligaments.

The body responds with controlled, localized inflammation. Though inflammation gets a well-deserved bad rap when it runs rampant, appropriate inflammation is also the body’s first response to injury and first step to healing. As prolotherapy introduces inflammation to a targeted area, it focuses the body’s healing energies where they are needed most. Repair commences, as the body releases growth factors that lead to development of a new collagen matrix. The body’s construction crew shows up at the prolotherapy-designated work site and lays down new ligament and tendon fibers. Ultimately, prolotherapy repairs damage by re-growing healthy, flexible and fresh connective tissue.

Raw Materials
Of course, this internal construction crew needs building materials—that’s where proper nutrition comes in. Wheaton puts prolotherapy patients on a supplement regimen that includes the amino acids L-arginine and L-cysteine, vitamin C, the minerals magnesium and manganese, the organic sulfur compound MSM and the herbs gotu kola and horsetail, among other healing substances. “These ingredients help with synthesis of collagen, which makes up ligaments,”

Wheaton explains. “With this nutrition, you’re giving the body something to work with.”
Wheaton also employs glucosamine and chondroitin in conjunction with prolotherapy. “Both scientific and mainstream literature show that glucosamine and chondroitin do as good a job or better of controlling moderate to severe arthritis pain than anti-inflammatory drugs,” he says, “without the side effects.” Another supplement that complements prolotherapy is the enzyme bromelain, derived from pineapples, which Wheaton uses to modulate the inflammatory response so critical to prolotherapy’s healing action.

The response can be staggering: About 85% to 90% of all prolotherapy patients experience significant improvements. Take Alan Swanson, who underwent wrist surgery 13 years ago that degenerated into severe arthritis. “The orthopedic surgeon said that my only options were either to fuse the wrist or remove a row of bones with a 70% chance things would grow back together,” he says. “I decided to try prolotherapy instead. It is now 14 months since my last prolotherapy treatment to my wrist and I am still completely pain-free, with more range of motion than I have had since the surgery.”

Prolotherapy is not a quick fix; it requires several treatments that can take up to a year. But for those who embrace it, a year of prolotherapy shots is preferable to a lifetime of prescription drugs—especially since it delivers permanent, organic results. “Prolotherapy is a true healing modal­ity,” Wheaton concludes. “That’s why I put prolotherapy ahead of any other form of pain or joint management, without question.”

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