Also known as regenerative injection therapy, prolotherapy involves the introduction of chemical irritants near physiological trigger points. The thinking behind this form of naturopathic medicine makes sense: conditions leading to chronic and musculoskeletal pain can be counteracted with the strengthening of the connective tissue through artificial means.
Though prolotherapy is not yet a mainstream treatment method for pain sufferers, athletes in particular are looking to this form of naturopathic medicine when hoping to quickly overcome potentially season- or even career-ending injuries.
It is interesting to note that the substances used in prolotherapy vary widely, depending on the naturopathic medicine practitioner's treatment philosophy. For example, some swear by cod liver oil extract while others rely on dextrose to provide the healing benefit of the treatment. Still others are firm believers in platelet rich plasma, which involves taking the patient's own blood, spinning it and re-injecting it into the body at the affected area. No matter what substance is used for injection, the goal remains the same: artificially induce an irritation (or inflammation) that then causes the tissues to release growth-causing agents, which actually strengthen weakened areas by as much as 30 to 40 percent.
Prolotherapy is not a one-time treatment. Like many procedures involving naturopathic medicine, this process relies on repetition for maximum effect. Injections may be given every two weeks or once every six weeks, depending on the effect and the initial damage to the ligaments and joints. Practitioners keep a close eye on any resulting pain, swelling of the affected limb, increase (or decrease) in the range of motion, tenderness of the injection site and also tingling or burning sensations reported by the patient. Case studies show that this kind of treatment can be so effective that it may even take the place of invasive surgery or long-term drug therapy for chronic pain. Not surprisingly, patients are greatly interested in this form of help that can do away with serious bodily side effects and sometimes virtual incapacitation.
Unfortunately, prolotherapy has not yet received the blessing of the medical insurers and as such is being treated like most other procedures in naturopathic medicine: experimental. This places patients into precarious positions; receiving this treatment is costly but effective in a good many cases. If money is no object, then these injections may spell the difference between surgery with subsequent pain killers and simple injections. Of course, for most consumers the cost factor may be prohibitive, thus keeping the treatment - for now - reserved for athletes and sports greats, who do not have a tight rein on their wallet.
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