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Is Prolotherapy a Viable Option for Treating Osteoarthritis Pain?

Prolotherapy is one of a small number of regenerative medicine therapies offered as an alternative to more traditional options like long term pain medications and surgical procedures. It is sometimes recommended to relieve the pain associated with osteoarthritis. But is prolotherapy a viable option for such pain? A study published in early November 2023 would seem to suggest it is.

The study looked at the effects of prolotherapy in patients with diagnosed osteoarthritis of the knee. Although it was a small-scale study with a follow-up period of just three months, its results are fairly definitive. If I were looking for an effective way to relieve osteoarthritis pain, I would be encouraged by this study to consider prolotherapy.

More About the Study

Osteoarthritis is a generative disease that manifests itself in a loss of cartilage. As joints age and begin to break down, new cartilage does not replace what is normally lost to time. The end result is that the two bones in a given joint make contact. They grind against one another and cause pain.

With this understanding, researchers enrolled 15 patients reporting moderate pain in at least one knee. Patients ranged in age from 50 to 85; all had been previously diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis. At baseline, all were interviewed and asked to rate both function and pain based on two common indexes.

The patients were given prolotherapy injections and then followed up via telemedicine interviews. In short, all of them reported both increased function and significant pain relief. Functional improvements were most dramatic between baseline and one month; pain relief continued through the third month.

Furthermore, there were no statistical differences between the results even using both indexes. Therefore, researchers were able to conclude that the prolotherapy injections did improve both function and pain perception.

An Injection Therapy

In addition to being classified as a regenerative therapy, prolotherapy is also an injection therapy. Lone Star Pain Medicine out of Weatherford, TX explains how the treatment is administered. They say doctors use a combination of dextrose and anesthetic to create a solution that is injected directly into the affected joint.

The anesthetic provides immediate pain relief while the dextrose actually irritates the joint to produce inflammation. This signals the body that an injury has taken place. The body responds with its natural ability to fight inflammation, thereby reducing pain over the long term.

With inflammation and stiffness reduced, the patient enjoys greater function with less pain. As far as how long the results of the injection last, it varies by patient. Some patients report effects that can last up to six months or longer. Others report relief that only lasts for a few months.

Effective and Inexpensive

Although prolotherapy has its detractors, both study data and anecdotal evidence suggest it works for a lot of patients. Furthermore, prolotherapy is inexpensive when compared to joint replacement surgery and long-term pain medication. It is minimally invasive and carries very little risk of complications.

Osteoarthritis is a disease that affects the majority of the population at some point. It is a natural result of aging. With so many people negatively impacted by it, I am personally surprised the prolotherapy doesn’t get more attention. Western medicine is pharmacologically based medicine, so the emphasis is on drugs and surgical procedures.

As long as prolotherapy works, people should be given the option to choose it. Should I ever experience arthritis severe enough to require treatment, prolotherapy will be on my list of options. I would far rather face an injection every few months then undergo joint replacement surgery.

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