Prolotherapy Controversy: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Side Effects of Prolotherapy?

Prolotherapy Controversy: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Side Effects of Prolotherapy?
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The Idea Behind Prolo

Prolotherapy approaches healing in a manner unconventional to Western medicine. Orthopedic surgery and pain medication are the conventional methods of treatment for back pain and joint problems. Surgery is designed to ‘fix’ the problem, and medication is designed to ‘cover’ the problem. Prolotherapy addresses the foundation of the problem — weak and vulnerable connective tissue.

There are side effects of prolotherapy, but they are nothing compared to the risks and negative effects of conventional treatment. Still, a relatively new and under-researched treatment method, prolotherapy controversy exists. Is it safe? Does it work? Has this practice been investigated enough to become as accepted as other alternative treatments, such as chiropractic care?

Prolo roots are derived from first century B.C. Roman medical practices. There are records of potassium nitrate, being injected into the flesh to treat hydrocele. Centuries later, medical pioneers began working with the idea of injecting mild solutions to encourage healing. The idea behind prolotherapy is that the presence of an irritant will trigger healing. Though the natural healing process is not without its own pain and trials, it can result in regenerated connective tissue, which is stronger than before. With healthy, undamaged ligaments and other tissue, injury is unlikely, and there is no longer a root cause of pain.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of prolotherapy? What risks should be considered? As with any injection, there is the chance, and even likelihood of localized pain, soreness, and bruising. Infection is possible, although unlikely. Many patients experience an increase in pain during the stimulated acute inflammation. It passes, usually within one week.

With prolotherapy, injections are often administered close to and around the spine, opening up the possibility for nerve injury. With an experienced professional, injury due to a mistake is not likely, just like a surgical error should not happen with an experienced orthopedic surgeon. Regardless, as a form of alternative medicine, prolotherapy is somewhat invasive, unlike other forms of complimentary medicine, such as acupuncture and massage therapy.

The Security of the Mainstream

According to the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, prolotherapy can be effective, although it is not always so, and more research is needed. This form of treatment is becoming more popular as individuals seek new ways to treat pain. People are becoming more aware of the dangers of long-term use of prescription medication and over-the-counter painkillers, and cortisone shots. Surgery is not always a desirable solution, and it does not necessarily eliminate pain.

Prolo is a potential solution, but until more sound research is done, there will be a prolotherapy controversy. Many people need more evidence to feel secure in trying an alternative medical treatment. There is the perception of safety in conventional treatment — if this is what most people do, and what most doctor’s are trained to do, it must be the best option — right? Taking an unbiased, in-depth look at what prolotherapy, and all alternative remedies for pain, from herbal medicine to acupuncture, can do, will greatly benefit chronic sufferers.


“A Systematic Review of Prolotherapy for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain.” (Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, September 2005)\_Systematic\_Review\_of\_Prolotherapy\_for\_Chronic.17.aspx

Goodley, Paul H. “Attacking the Confusion: Injection Therapies — Revelations and Reflections.” (Medscape, September, 2007)

The Prolotherapy Institute

Photo Credit

photo by Andreanna Moya Photography (CC/flickr)


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This post is part of the series: Prolotherapy

Learn about prolotherapy, an alternative treatment method for pain. A unique form of medicine, few people know exactly what it is, what the cons of prolotherapy are, and the healing benefits. Learn the background, the controversy, and the potential.

  1. What are the Risks and Cons of Prolotherapy?
  2. Understanding the Prolotherapy Controversy