Sugar may be sweet when it comes to baking and cooking, but in medicine, sugar can actually play the role of a “sour apple,” so to speak—and that’s a good thing.
Physicians can use a simple sugar called dextrose that is made from corn and is chemically identical to glucose (blood sugar)i to treat patients with chronic pain. Proliferative therapy, commonly referred to as prolotherapy, involves injecting a combination of dextrose and other medications directly into an injured area. The concentrated dextrose (sugar water) serves as an irritant that triggers mild inflammation. This “tricks” the body into thinking the area is injured and helps jump-start the natural healing process.
When it was first introduced in the 1950s, prolotherapy represented a major step forward in identifying ways in which the body could heal itself naturally. Today it is often used in conjunction with other regenerative treatments, such as platelet rich plasma, to further boost the body’s own natural healing capabilities.
Conditions Treated with Prolotherapy
Prolotherapy can reduce pain and inflammation and improve healing in patients suffering from a number of orthopedic conditions, including:
- degenerative disc disease
- joint sprains or laxity
- ligament sprains
- plantar fasciitis
- sports injuries such as tennis elbow or golf elbow
Prolotherapy helps regenerate tissues in worn joints and discs, repair and strengthen torn or loose ligaments and tendons, and as the body heals, it reduces swelling that causes pain.
Prolotherapy is an Out-Patient Procedure
As opposed to oral medications that must work their way through the body’s systems to reach their intended target, prolotherapy delivers the medication directly to the injured body part. This is done using fluoroscopic (x-ray) or ultrasound guidance that provides the pain management specialist with a clear image of where the medication needs to go.
Because the medication is delivered via an injection, there is no incision, no major recovery time and no need for lengthy rehab. The entire procedure, including preparation and post-procedure monitoring, only takes about an hour. Although there may be some initial swelling or bruising at the injection site, most patients are able (and encouraged) to resume their normal activities the next day.
To ensure further healing and strengthening, patients are often prescribed complementary therapies, including physical therapy and nutritional consultations, to ensure they are doing everything possible to support and encourage on-going healing and recovery.