While the media has been abuzz this past several years with PRP and stem cells, the world’s first regenerative medicine technique doesn’t get much play. Prolotherapy involves injecting substances to cause a brief inflammatory healing reaction. The concept of creating irritation or injury to stimulate healing has been recorded as early as Roman times where hot needles were poked into the shoulders of injured gladiators. Prolotherapy first began in the 1930s and was originally used in the treatment of ligament laxity. In the 1950s Dr. George Hackett, began performing injections of irritant solutions in an effort to repair joints and treat spinal pain. This practice is what would eventually evolve into modern day prolotherapy. He was joined by Gustav Hemwall in the 1950s. Perhaps the most famous recipient of prolotherapy was C. Everett Koop, Surgeon General of the U.S. under Reagan. Koop was injected with prolotherapy in the low back and was cured of severe and incapacitating back pain and thus became a life long advocate for the procedure.
Some patients simply don’t need more expensive PRP or stem cell injections and instead will do well with just simple prolotherapy, This is a recent e-mail from such a patient:
“Dear Dr. Hanson,
Last year I came to see you because my knees were suffering from some injuries playing hockey. I had reached a point that I could barely walk up and down the stairs because of the pain, and any exercise was out of the question. Your evaluation identified damage to cartilage, ligaments and tendons in both knees, and I was despondent over the information. With your guidance, I decided to try prolotherapy injections as well as physical therapy to work on my posture and gait. After the first set of injections in July, I made the decision to focus on recovery and told my teammates I would not be playing hockey with them during the 2011/2012 season. The process of recovery became noticeable about 2-3 weeks after the first injections, and I was encouraged to continue. I had a second set of injections about 8 weeks after the first, and shortly thereafter I was able to jog with my kids for the first time in almost a year. I believe that the thorough explanation of the interaction of muscle groups, as well as the information on how prolotherapy works allowed me to better facilitate the healing process within my body. As a result of your treatment and my efforts, my body responded to healing quicker than I had anticipated. By Thanksgiving of 2011, I was able to substitute for a player on our hockey team. By January, there was a permanent opening on the team to complete the season. I am happy to say that my knees felt more stable than they have in a long time, and I was able to play the final 7 games without restriction. Last week I ran wind sprints with my kids, which I truly did not believe I would ever be able to do at the age of 48! Thanks to you and Mark for helping me to realize that surgery is not the only option, and pain is not something that we have to live with as we age.”
One of things we’ve lost in our modern business focused medical model that rewards esoteric drugs with patents and highly reimbursable and often dangerous surgical procedures is that sometimes simpler is better…