Prolotherapy for Thumb Pain

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Ross Hauser, MDRoss Hauser, MD

Below, Dr. Hauser discusses research on Prolotherapy for Thumb Pain as well as a case with a patient who was an Operating Room nurse for many years.

Patient Janice was, for the last five years, trying to do her job with painful thumbs. Imagine being in the operating room and not being able to grip an instrument or open a sterile pack for the surgeon. Being in the medical field, Janice sought the help of an orthopedic physician, but was told there was nothing he could do. So Janice lived and worked through the pain, having trouble with everything from opening jars at home to operating the equipment at work.

A referral from a friend brought Janice intro our office for Prolotherapy for thumb pain.

Prolotherapy for Thumb Pain

Pain like Janice was experiencing is usually the result of overuse. Overuse injuries occur over a period of time from repetitive trauma to the tendons, bones, and joints. Tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome are other examples of overuse injuries. We are accustomed to exercise strengthening the tendons, ligaments, bone, and joints. However, with overuse, the tissue breaks down faster than it is able to build up. Body misalignment can also play a role. At her job, Janice was repeatedly using her thumbs to grip and open surgical packages and to operate equipment.

The thumb is actually the most common area of pain in the hand because of its unique function. The thumbs have to work a lot harder than the fingers when performing their tasks and are therefore the first part of the hand to elicit pain. Weakened ligaments from the overuse and repetitive movements cause the pain. The two joints of the thumb, the carpometacarpal and the metacarpophalangeal joints, are the most common areas in the hand to experience pain. Prolotherapy to these areas will strengthen the structural weaknesses and can alleviate the pain permanently.

After only two prolotherapy treatments, Janice noticed that her grip strength was greatly improved. After her third treatment, the pain in both of her thumbs was reduced by 80%. Janice is now able to perform her job with much more ease and without the constant distress of pain.

Prolotherapy for Thumb Pain Research

In the Journal of Prolotherapy, October 2013, we published research that showed Prolotherapy to be effective for basal thumb arthritis or trapeziometacarpal (TMC) arthritis. We find that this affliction is often the result of ligament laxity or injury to the thumb, which then creates a cascade of arthritic effects.

In our study we documented the benefits of Prolotherapy for 13 patients with TMC joint osteoarthritis in 17 of their thumbs. Specifically, Prolotherapy counteracts the tissue degeneration that leads to pain and stiffness by creating a healing cascade, which begins with inflammation and proceeds to connective tissue repair.

During each treatment session, patients received an average of 10 injections of dextrose—a simple sugar used as a safe inflammatory agent—in the afflicted thumb joint and surrounding connective tissue.

More Prolotherapy research citations can be found on this page on our site Prolotherapy research. To learn more about Prolotherapy and if it is the right treatment for your hip pain, please read our article Prolotherapy information for patients.