Prolotherapy Treatment

Marc Darrow, MDMarc Darrow, MD

The term “Prolotherapy” is short for “proliferation therapy.” Proliferation, of course, means “rapid production.” What Prolotherapy rapidly produces is collagen and cartilage. Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in the body that is a necessary element for the formation of new connective tissue—the tissues that holds our skeletal infrastructure together. These tissues include tendons, ligaments, muscle fascia and joint capsular tissue.

Prolotherapy helps make collagen through a series of injections, not of collagen, but of mild chemical or natural (such as dextrose-sugar) irritants, which stimulates the immune system’s healing mechanism to produce collagen naturally. The making of new collagen makes for strengthened and restored joints. Restored and strengthened joints make for permanent pain relief.

The Basis of a Prolotherapy Treatment: The Prolotherapy Doctor’s Examination

A Prolotherapy physician will physically examine the patient, being careful to gently press on the suspect area causing pain. When the physician’s touch elicits an intense pain spot, known as a trigger point or tender point, this is the spot where Prolotherapy is given.

One test you can do at home to determine if you are a candidate for Prolotherapy is to gently press on the area causing pain.

If you can find and put your finger on an exact spot where the pain is coming from, you have found the trigger or tender point, the junction of bone and connective tissue that is injured or weakened.

Prolotherapy is also effective for areas of the body that are painful but not tender to the touch, like the inside of a joint.

The Injections

Unlike the cosmetic use of collagen that requires injecting bovine collagen into the skin to rejuvenate and restore a more youthful appearance, Prolotherapy stimulates your body to produce its own collagen. Rejuvenating and rebuilding your body’s infrastructure and allowing you a more youthful and pain-free vigor.
The ingredients used in Prolotherapy consist of a variety of tested, refined and researched compounds that have been successful in helping alleviate chronic pain.


Some Prolotherapy doctors use mild chemical irritants, such as phenol, guaiacol or tannic acid, to trigger the healing process. These substances attach themselves to the walls of the cells wherever they are injected and cause the irritation that stimulates the body’s reactive healing process. Others prefer to use chemotactic agents, primarily sodium morrhuate, a fatty acid derived from cod liver oil.

Some Prolotherapy doctors use the dramatic sounding “osmotic shock agents,” which are actually simple compounds like dextrose and glycerine. These ingredients are the most commonly used in the arsenal of Prolotherapy and are extremely safe and water-soluble. They are easily excreted from the body after having their initial desired effect. They work by causing cells to lose water, leading to cellular dehydration and then Inflammation with its subsequent stimulation of the healing response.

Besides these general differences in the injections, the specific combinations of chemicals and substances used are as varied as the “schools” of Prolotherapy using them.

Some practitioners add co-factors, such as the antioxidant mineral manganese, or a combination of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate which is believed to aid in the repair of arthritic joints. Some have preference for other co-factors believed to increase the efficacy of the compounds they are used with.

Although the above methods of Prolotherapy work in different ways—motivating the body to heal itself through a variety of natural responses—the end result is the same: To cure pain by building new tissue and stabilizing the joints.