Prolotherapy (part 1)

Over a year and a half ago, I injured both elbows. When the pain didn’t clear, I went to the doc. I was diagnosed with tendonitis, put on NSAIDs and told to refrain from any workout that involved my triceps. Not happy, but, okay, I did it.

Problem is, nothing got better. Pain actually increased. Doc checked for arthritis. Joints were as clear as the summer sky. I was told to continue doing nothing upper body and a round of steroids were tried.

Weeks stretched to months. Pain increased and a steady ache evolved.

Began losing my mind slightly. All muscle tone I had worked so hard for was gone. Pain had grown worse and nothing on the horizon promised a return to my happy, workout self.

Then, I found LECOM (Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine). An in-office ultrasound spotted tell-tale bundles of disorganized muscle wads (I am certain that is NOT the technical term). Basically the news was that after over a year and a half of treatment for tendonitis, I had actually ripped tendon at the time of the initial injury.

And those NSAIDS I took? Dead wrong advice for real injuries. I understand now that NSAIDS – along with giving the taker happy relief from pain – also block injury messages to the brain. Yes, you’ve got the picture. Don’t let the brain know that there is serious damage and it won’t send orders for macrophages, fibroblasts, and other good nano-helpers to flow into the injured areas and make repairs.

I was also informed that I have ligament laxity, or loose ligaments. Not a big deal, it is thought to be genetic and effects about 5% of the population. It just means that someone has increased mobility in their joints…or hypermobility as they call it. Ligament laxity can be connected to diseases such as Marfan syndrome, or Ehler-Danlos syndrome, but that is not so in my case. I just have as one doctor termed it, “more play in my joints.” I liked that description as I hope to play a long time with these joints.

Anyway, the ligament laxity is important because it explains the increase in pain as the muscles – deprived of exercise – atrophied. The loss of strong muscle tissue holding the joint together allowed for further hypermobility and continuing injury.

At LECOM I was presented with some traditional treatment options and none pleased me. All were too invasive or involved curtailment of any serious training for what sounded like forever with no guarantee of relief from the pain that was now ever-present and interrupting my sleep.

Asked for a second opinion and met Dr. Greg Coppola. Dr. Greg added the treatment option of prolotherapy. The theory behind prolotherapy is that by injecting an irritant solution in the area of weak or damaged tendons and ligaments, the resulting inflammation would trigger the body to begin repairs. The thought is that these repairs would lay down new connective fibers that would strengthen and repair the lax or damaged tissues.

If I chose prolotherapy, it would mean four or possibly more rounds of monthly injections. Yes, there would be pain, but acetaminophen could be taken to ease that…just no NSAIDS. Dr. Greg explained that in his practice, 80% of patients responded to prolotherapy. 100% is better, but 80% sounded great to me.

Prior to beginning prolotherapy, Dr. Greg also had my blood tested to make certain my body was producing the necessary bits and bobs to enable tissue repair when the time came. Even though it delayed the first prolotherapy attempt, I thought it was a great, potential disappointment-dispelling idea! Ends up I was low on D3 (that is what sunblock will get you), so I was immediately put on a regimen of a quality D3 supplement.

When levels were adequate, prolotherapy was begun.

I am happy to report that I was in the 80% of responders. I can now walk without having to put my hands in my pockets to relieve the pain in my elbows and I can do a full steering wheel revolution without wanting to scream. When I said the pain got bad, it got really bad.

Come to learn, I was lucky to show a positive response after one injection cycle. Some people take several cycles to see improvement. Sometimes doctors have to tinker with the injection mixture contents and ratios before a patient will see improvement, and some patients aren’t lucky enough to respond to prolotherapy at all.

Last Friday, I went for my second round of prolotherapy and am so jazzed about this non-surgical repair method that I want to share it. So, in my next few installments, I’ll share with you the process of the injections, with photos and all.

Though prolotherapy use resembling today’s practice was begun in the 1950s, the research is conflicting and not amassed in large enough quantities to really have a definitive verdict on its effectiveness. Still, I am smiling today with hope that was all but extinguished by more conventional practices. I am Prolo-a-go-go and looking forward to that first tricep pushup…and all the others to follow.

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One thought on “Prolotherapy (part 1)

  1. I too had injured my elbow, having dislocated it during aikido. After 2 years fo pain, I had prolotherapy treatments on my elbow, among other places for other injuries as well. I have chronicled the treatments at http://prolotherapydiary.com. I encourage you to visit to learn more about prolotherapy injections from the patient’s perspective.

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