Sometimes a little poison is good medicine.
With prolotherapy, concentrated sugar solution is used to incite localized inflammation, which stimulates the body to heal and strengthen injured areas.
Inflammation has a pretty bad reputation these days, and most of us think it’s something to be avoided. While this is certainly true of chronic inflammation, our acute inflammatory response is different.
“That inflammation is reparative,” says Dr. Alexander Kulick, an integrative medicine physician who has been treating patients with prolotherapy for 15 years.
Even though one of the earliest known versions of prolotherapy was practiced by Hippocrates—the ancient Greek physician who is regarded as the father of medicine—and modern techniques have been used since the 1950s, the concept is still somewhat novel.
“[It] is still moderately revolutionary in a day where everybody pops aspirin for every ache and pain,” Dr. Kulick says.
Prolotheraphy is good for a variety of conditions: hard-to-heal sports injuries involving partially torn ligaments and tendons; damaged cartilage; muscle spasms related to weak ligaments; pain in the back and neck; and conditions like tendonitis, arthritis, sciatica, degenerated spinal discs, and pain in the jaw (TMJ).
It is also Dr. Kulick’s preferred technique for treating recurrent migraines.
“It’s almost the only thing I’ll use,” he said.
“People who had migraines every day of the week come back and tell me they either never have them, or they get them once in a blue moon and they go away [with medication].”
Prolotherapy Fixes Symptom and Cause
Every joint in the human body is held in place by ligaments (which attach bones to other bones) and tendons (which attach muscle to bone).
When tendons and ligaments are injured or stressed, they start to fray at their attachment points.
Prolotherapy targets injections exactly at those attachment points, and the inflammation causes the body to regrow strong, healthy tissue.
Dr. Kulick said he often combines prolotherapy with a muscle-relaxing treatment, called trigger point therapy, to relieve any spasms that were causing muscles to pull on the tendons.
When done by an experienced physician using ultrasound guidance, prolotherapy does not really have side effects.
Dr. Kulick cautions that you should never take anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen while undergoing treatment, because these would suppress the inflammatory response. He also recommends icing the area of injection after the procedure.
“If you ice it that evening, you will feel great the next day,” he said. If you don’t, “you may feel like you got hit with a truck the next day.”
Integrative Medicine and Pain Management
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