I headed for my appointment at LECOM feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety.
I was excited that there had been some improvement in my elbow since the first prolotherapy session. But I was anxious the improvement wasn’t impressive enough to be considered a success. Sure, I could now pet my dog without feeling the urge to scream from the pain, but we were quite some distance from a push up.
To my delight, I learned that even my small progress was considered a big win. Many people show no improvement until after their second or even third set of prolotherapy injections.
So it was decided that we would go forward with the next round of injections.
First, my doc marked my elbow with dots corresponding to pressure-induced pain reactions in specific spots. The doc marked my skin with something that looked like an eyeliner pencil, but I am certain had higher antiseptic properties.
It seems that the elbow is a tricky place; with nerves, bones and tissue all occupying very limited real estate. Due to this fact, some areas are apparently off limits for the injections.
When the first elbow was marked, I asked if we could go ahead with the second elbow since there had been improvement with the first.
I was told they seldom treated both elbows at once.
I understood this statement. About four days following my first round of shots, my elbow bruised to a gorgeous purple-black mess and hurt unrelentingly for two weeks. Still, I told myself the greater the pain, the more healing that was going on. That was the objective after all, right?
I explained that after a year and a half of no upper body workouts, I was super anxious to get back to myself and my level of health. My doc looked dubious. Then I outright pleaded. I believe my words were something like, “Oh, please, oh, please, oh please?!”
She said she would mark the second elbow, but it would be up to Dr. Coppola (Dr. Greg) if it would be treated.
Wahoo! We were one step closer!
Just as the marking was completed, Dr. Greg entered and made some specifications for injection preparations. Upon seeing both of my elbows marked, he commented on this fact. I asked if we couldn’t go ahead with both since there had been some response from the first round of shots.
He told me that they usually don’t do both elbows at the same time.
I took a deep breath and put aside the slight doubt that had entered my mind when I heard him order the dextrose mixture be put into a “wide bore needle” and assured him I had a supportive family and friends who would carry my groceries and help me in anyway necessary if it came to that. I shared that I was desperate to begin treatment to end this depressing cycle of non-activity.
He said that since I had just been through one round of treatment and I knew how painful it could be, that if I wanted to go forward with both, he would do them.
WAHOO, WAHOO, WAHOO!
Yes, indeed, I did want to run ahead with both.
So they swabbed both injection sites with an antiseptic liquid to make the areas sterile and prevent infection.
Then came the lidocaine injections into each dot marked for prolotherapy.
Used in this way, lidocaine is an local anesthetic that temporarily stops nerves from sending pain signals. The needle used for the lidocaine injections was very fine and honestly, I really didn’t feel any discomfort as it entered and exited my skin. Though I was told that not everyone turned into a human pincushion by a lidocaine needle agreed on my no pain observation.
Then Dr. Greg got to work injecting the irritant mixture that is the prolotherapy treatment while we chatted about common friends and the running revolution.
Once the injections were done and the little blood drops dabbed away, they placed non-stick gauze pads on each elbow and wrapped them with compressive pressure with elastic adhesive bandage.
I was thrilled! I was on my way, I paid the bill with a smile that would not leave my face. We were at last on the right track.
On the way to the elevator, I texted the good news my friend Scott, the man who had referred me to Dr. Greg after having an Achilles tendon rip healed with prolotherapy. If at all possible, it is awesome to have a friend you can contact who has been through a process you are beginning. Though your experiences may not be the same, it is so reassuring to have a friend as ground control and cheering section. Thank you, Scott!
Some folks I’ve spoken to said the pain was immediate after the injections, but my experience seems to be that the pain doesn’t set in for three to four days, then it hangs out for about 14 days. Then I have a little over a week to gauge what improvements have been made before it is time for the next treatment.
Though I leave the compression bandages put on at LECOM the day of treatment on until bedtime to minimize bruising, the bruising really doesn’t reach its peak for about four days. After that, the contusions begin their natural fade.
After my first set of injections, my elbow was one huge purple bruise, but this time, the bruising looks less fall from a bike at high speed and more roller derby mishap six days out.
In about two weeks, I should be able to tell what new functionality has returned and enjoy the return of elbow stability until the next round of injections. But four to five rounds of prolotherapy injections will be a small price to pay to have my wings back working!