What do arthritis, tendinitis/tendinosis, and low back pain have in common? Well aside from low back pain they can affect many different areas of the body and they are all quite difficult to effectively treat. Currently, the standard of care for most of these is a watch and wait approach (wait around and see if it gets better on it's own), corticosteroid injections (which effectively deal with pain management but little else), or physiotherapy (helpful, but has it's limitations). The majority of these approaches are effective at dealing with pain in these conditions but do not really help in the healing of the damaged tissues. Even the pain management seems to be somewhat short lived.
Enter prolotherapy. In short, it is an injection based therapy where a solution of sugar (hypertonic dextrose) is introduced into the area of pain. From here on out the exact reason for how this works is a bit unclear but the strongest theory is that this causes inflammation to the area which then in a way, forces the body to begin to heal a part of itself in which it essentially has forgotten about. Now this isn't the same type of inflammation you get during an allergic reaction or cut on your skin, rather it's quite mild and only serves to reactivate the healing process.
So here we have an alternative to the current standards of care but how does it stack up when compared against them? Quite well actually. Research has shown that not only is prolotherapy comparable to corticosteroid injections for reducing pain, but it can also return the individual to proper function and strength quicker. Additionally, the effects it has last over a longer period of time than any of the comparable treatments! So it works as effective or better than the current treatments, and it's effect lasts longer.. too good to be true? No, not really. I mean as long as you're ok with needles, the only side effect seen after treatment is some soreness at the site of injection. That's pretty incredible considering the alternatives. And just to be clear, I'm not against the standards of care in any way, they are the standards for a reason. I just think it's important to have choice and know all the options before receiving a treatment.
So why is prolotherapy not more widely known and used? Well, if you live in Ontario or many other provinces and states across North America, prolotherapy is not actually allowed to be practiced by Medical or Naturopathic doctors. Because the research coming out is so new and the participant sizes in the studies are relatively small, many governing bodies are hesitant to allow prolotherapy to flourish... for now. With a growing body of research supporting it's uses and relatively no negatives against it, it may only be a matter of time before it makes it's way into more of North America.
Who knew sugar could be so good? Dr. Rob Raponi, Naturopathic Doctor, CISSN, B.Kine www.msknaturopathic.com
For those interested in learning more, feel free to read up on some of the research: References
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Maynard JA, Pedrini VA, Pedrini-Mille A, Romanus B, Ohlerking F. Morphological and biochemical effects of sodium morrhuate on tendons. Journal of Orthopaedic Research. 1985;3:236–248.
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