By Dr. Ayo Bankole
Prolotherapy is becoming recognized as an effective treatment for athletic related injuries and has several advantages over conventional approaches. New or old nagging injuries respond equally well to Prolotherapy. Injured ligaments of untreated joints are weaker and have more stretch and laxity, which dramatically increases the risk of re-injury. This leaves the joint susceptible to shearing forces, compromising the cartilage and setting the stage for arthritis. Prolotherapy not only helps athletes get back in action but also helps prevent these long-term complications of unresolved joint injuries.
What is Prolotherapy?
Prolotherapy is a series of treatments that causes the release or proliferation of cells that heal connective tissue. The healing cells release collagen and matrix to repair stretched and torn ligaments, tendons and cartilage. Treatments are applied directly to the site of injury along with the surrounding structures. A prolotherapy syringe may contain a mixture of dextrose and procaine or contain a concentration of the patient’s own platelets, called Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP). Prolotherapy is considered a regenerative treatment because it encourages healing and repair.
How is Prolotherapy different from Conventional Approaches?
Conventional therapies lack the unique regenerative quality of prolotherapy. Prolotherapy heals injured connective tissue, often restoring the joint to its pre-injury state. On the other hand conventional approaches rely on inactivity, immobilization and sidelining the athlete. Typically pain suppression with anti-inflammatories and corticosteroids are prescribed. These medications block the release of healing cells disparately needed to repair the injury. Anti-inflammatories ultimately result in further degeneration.
What kind of Sports injuries does Prolotherapy treat?
Prolotherapy can treat injuries irrespective of the sport and include jarring impact injuries from contact sports, chronic overuse injuries, sprains and strains and minor tears. I commonly see and treat injuries of the thumb, elbow and shoulder from golf and tennis. These injuries occur from the combined motion of swinging and the strike impact. Throwing injuries to the shoulders from baseball and football respond well to prolotherapy. Kicking injuries of the groin sustained in soccer and martial arts are well treated with prolotherapy also. The high impact trauma to the feet, ankles, knees and hips sustained in long distance runners is best treated with prolotherapy. When prolotherapy is offered early in the course of injuries, the athlete can be spared the chain reaction dysfunction of one joint progressing to other joints, further compromising performance and prolonging recovery. Prolotherapy can be used to treat new injuries or old injuries that never properly healed.
Does Prolotherapy treat high grade injuries?
Clinical evidence and research alike support the use of Prolotherapy not only for sprains and strains to ligaments and tendons but also for connective tissue tears. Clinical research shows Platelet-rich Plasma Prolotherapy accelerates the tendon healing process, improves tendon fiber alignment, and improves the synthesis of type I collagen. None of this can be said of ibuprofen, steroids, or surgery. The obvious benefit is more rapid and thorough healing, decreased pain and faster recovery. Specific injuries well treated with PRP Prolotherapy include injuries to the medial collateral ligament, knee meniscus, labrum tears, tendonopathies, tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis and rotator cuff injuries of the shoulder.
Is there down time after Prolotherapy?
A significant advantage of Prolotherapy over conventional approaches for athletic injuries is the greatly diminished downtime during recovery. Because the standard approach of rest, ice, immobilization, compression and elevation alone hamper blood flow, oxygen, and to the injury, healing is delayed. The approach Prolotherapist encourage is gentle, active range moment, movement and exercise. Generally, athletes should continue any appropriate endurance activity, core and balance training during recovery. Athletes should avoid impact activities effecting the treated joint for approximately two weeks.
For most injuries, 3-6 treatments are all that’s needed for optimal outcome. Treatments are typically spaced 3-4 weeks apart. Prolotherapy provides athletes a fresh and progressive approach to healing sports injuries. Remarkably the treatments promote the repair of injuries thus providing a better outlook and outcome compared to waiting for pain to go away while on the side lines.