Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common pain-inducing conditions in the world. Just in the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that the disease affects some 32.5 million adults. It is so common that people just expect to have to deal with it as they age. But what about treatments? What about prolotherapy in particular? Is it a good treatment option for OA?
Prolotherapy is among the many treatments offered by the pain doctors at Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX. Lone Star says that their doctors are more likely to recommend it for soft tissue injuries, chronic tendonitis, facet syndrome, and a few other conditions. Its efficacy for OA is unclear.
More About Osteoarthritis
OA is a degenerative joint disease caused by a loss of cartilage in the joints. Cartilage is that soft, pliable tissue that fills the space between bones, providing both cushioning and shock absorption. Over time, cartilage can wear away due to normal activity or as the result of some sort of injury or trauma. If the loss of cartilage is significant enough, it results in bone-on-bone contact.
Common OA symptoms include joint pain, inflammation, and tenderness. The pain can be debilitating in the most serious cases. Even when it’s not though, OA pain can be uncomfortable enough to encourage a person to remain immobile. This could lead to additional complications that doctors do their best to help patients avoid.
More About Prolotherapy
Prolotherapy is an injection therapy designed to purposely create inflammation. Before you roll your eyes at such a suggestion, step back and think about why inflammation naturally occurs. Inflammation is a warning sign that some sort of injury or disease is present. But it’s also a method by which the body’s healing response is triggered.
Western medicine tends to look at inflammation as a bad thing. We have developed all sorts of therapies designed to reduce inflammation. Doing so can be good from the perspective of mitigating pain, but when inflammation is reduced, there is one less signal to tell the body it needs to heal itself.
The point of prolotherapy is to purposely create inflammation so that the body responds. The body’s built-in repair mechanisms get to work fixing whatever is broken. In the end, you get both pain relief and at least some semblance of natural healing. At least that is the theory behind prolotherapy.
Prolotherapy and Soft Tissue Injuries
Though the overall efficacy of prolotherapy still remains questionable, it is easy enough to understand how it could help with soft tissue injuries. A pulled muscle or damaged ligament only gets better when the body generates new tissue. That new tissue replaces the damaged tissue. If prolotherapy does what it is designed to do, it encourages the body to produce that new tissue.
OA is a completely different animal. In an ideal scenario, prolotherapy would encourage the body to generate more cartilage to replace what is lost or damaged. But it is not clear if that actually happens. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the study data we currently have does show limited pain relief from prolotherapy. However, none of the studies have been large scale clinical studies, and none demonstrate that new cartilage has actually been generated.
Whether or not prolotherapy is appropriate for OA is up to doctors and patients to decide together. If nothing else, the treatment is safe. If a patient is willing to try it and finds relief as a result, there doesn’t seem to be a valid reason to discontinue its use. If it doesn’t work though, there are other treatment options.