Last updated: Oct 12, 2021

What Is Prolotherapy?

Prolotherapy is a procedure used for the treatment of various ligament joint injuries. It involves injecting an irritant solution into the affected area, thereby beginning ligament repair.

It is essential to understand that it is not a surgical procedure but rather a minimally invasive therapy for sports injuries, chronic pain, musculoskeletal pain, etc. Prolotherapy is otherwise known as regenerative joint injection and non-surgical ligament and tendon reconstruction.

Although we commonly use prolotherapy for back problems, we also use it for knee, shoulder, hips, and other body joints treatment.

There are three types of prolotherapy:

  • Inflammatory prolotherapy – which consists of injecting a mildly inflammatory substance into injured tissues to create an inflammatory reaction and immune response. The substance used for this purpose is dextrose.
  • Growth factor injection prolotherapy – which consists of injecting specific growth factors into an injured joint. These specific growth factors target muscles, cartilages, or ligaments. We use it for treating muscle and ligament sprains.
  • Growth factor stimulation prolotherapy – which consists of injecting a substance that stimulates the production of growth factors naturally. We mainly use it to stimulate the growth of connective tissue, skin cells, and red blood cells.

Which prolotherapy type is best for you will be determined based on your problem or injury, physical examination, and imaging.

What Conditions Are Treated With Prolotherapy?

As mentioned, we can use three types of prolotherapy to treat various problems. Conditions that we can treat with prolotherapy include:

How Does Prolotherapy Work?

Prolotherapy is a procedure that involves injecting an irritant solution, such as a dextrose solution, into the injured body part using a long and thin needle. The injected irritant solution is supposed to activate the body’s healing response.

What Are the Benefits of Prolotherapy?

Proponents of prolotherapy believe it is highly effective and completely natural. It is a long-term treatment that relies on the body to repair itself and reduce pain to increase joint strength and stability. Increased joint strength and stability mean enhanced total joint function and movement.

The specialist needs to be well-trained as injections should be precise. Your doctor should apply the irritant solution only in specific areas which require ligament repair. Usually, a person will need more than one prolotherapy treatment session for better results. For best outcomes, a person will usually require more than one prolotherapy treatment session. Several sessions will take place over a few months, usually within 3 to 6 months. Each session may require 5 to 15 injections, depending on the injury severity and the affected joint. The repair of the torn ligament will begin after the injection is administered where it is required. Stronger joint ligaments will aid in joint stabilization.

What Are the Risks and Side Effects of Prolotherapy?

Like any other treatment, prolotherapy has risks and potential side effects. Fortunately, minor issues have been reported so far, with the worst appearing to be a possible infection at the injection site. Fever and pain will accompany the infection, which is usually successfully treated with antibiotics.

Swelling at the injection site, discomfort, and pain have also been reported, but these symptoms typically resolve within a few days. Even though it appears that your problem has worsened as a result of prolotherapy, you will soon realize its benefits once these temporary symptoms are gone.

However, because prolotherapy is new and has not been thoroughly researched, unexpected side effects may arise.

How to Prepare for Prolotherapy?

First, you need to check with your healthcare provider if you are the right candidate for prolotherapy. This procedure is not suitable for everyone. We do not recommend prolotherapy for people with chronic medical conditions. In these cases, other treatment options may be more effective.

Suppose your doctor believes you might be a candidate for prolotherapy. In that case, they will likely order an x-ray to see if the procedure is feasible based on the location and severity of the injury.

If you’re taking anti-inflammatory medications, you should stop using them a few days before the procedure since they may prevent prolotherapy from working.

It’s also a good idea to eat a protein-rich meal right before prolotherapy.

Once you are ready for the procedure, people who perform it must clean and disinfect the skin area to administer the injections. After that, they will inject the irritant solution into the afflicted area with a long and thin needle. The affected area or joint determines the number of injections required.

How Much Does Prolotherapy Cost?

In most cases, insurance will not cover the prolotherapy cost. Therefore you will have to pay for it yourself. A prolotherapy treatment will typically cost between $200 and $600 on average. The actual cost will depend on the treated body area, the palace where you receive treatment, and whether you require additional sessions for a full recovery.

Suppose you believe that prolotherapy could help relieve your pain and have tried anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroid injections but have not seen any real benefits. In that case, you can schedule a consultation with our specialists.

This page was published on Jul 20, 2017, modified on Oct 12, 2021 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare
Dr. Eric D. Freeman, a highly regarded pain specialist

Dr. Eric D. Freeman, a highly regarded pain specialist in New Jersey, is board-certified and fellowship-trained in Interventional Spine and Pain Management and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He is an expert in minimally invasive spinal procedures and non-surgical orthopedic care.

Dr. Freeman is a member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Interventional Pain Practice Society. In addition, he serves as the Immediate Past President of the New Jersey Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. Dr. Freeman is well-known in the field of pain management as a leading pain management doctor, having been named one of "America's Top Physicians."