Prolotherapy: An Alternative to Arthritis Surgery

Ross Hauser, MDRoss Hauser, MD

Many times, patients are getting surgery recommendations for degenerative conditions. The most common surgery is arthroscopy which in numerousd medical studies was found to be no more effective than placebo in regard to knee arthritis. There are still hundreds of thousands of joint replacements every year for Degenerative Joint Disease. There are hundreds of thousands of more surgeries for degenerative disc disease. Let’s see if surgery makes sense for these conditions.

If one wants to induce advanced arthritis in animals guess how you do it? You damage the ligaments around the joint. This will cause some instability which increases the pressure in the joint where the ligaments were injured. The increased pressure then causes an acceleration of the degenerative process. To stabilize the unstable segments, initial muscle spasm will result. Thus, the myriad of people with chronic neck or back tension. Eventually the body will stabilize the segment by overgrowing bone. This overgrowth of bone is typically read on x-rays as bone spurs, spondylosis, or fused joints.

Prolotherapy gets at the root cause of the degenerative process which is typically ligament injury. This is why football players often get knee replacement  at a young age.

Their “football” injuries were treated with Steroid injections and anti-inflammatory medications which just accelerate the degenerative process. These substances by blocking Inflammation, block healing. Prolotherapy, by stimulating inflammation, stimulates healing. In regard to cartilage, ligament, tendon, or muscle injuries, no inflammation, no healing.


Osteoarthritis (or degenerative joint disease (DJD)) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting nearly the entire elderly population. Osteoarthritis is described as a generally progressive loss of articular cartilage accompanied by sclerosis of subchondral bone and, in many instances, the formation of subchondral bone cysts and osteophytes. The osteophytes are the overgrowth of bone that make joints look big and are the abnormalities that physicians see on x-ray showing arthritis in the joints.

This decrease in cartilage and the overgrowth of bone causes the person with arthritis to have restrictions in motion, joint pain, crepitus with motion, joint effusions, and obvious joint deformities.

Warning signs

Soreness and aching in the joint and surrounding tissues generally accompanies development of osteoarthritis. A grating sensation is frequently heard with movement of the joint. Osteoarthritis commonly occurs in the knees, hips, spine, and ankles, as well as the shoulders and at old fracture sites that have occurred within joints. The latter is particularly true with ankle and wrist arthritis. This is because osteoarthritis forms anywhere that joint instability exists.

“Standard Treatments”

The standard medical treatment for osteoarthritis involves the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Unfortunately, however, it has been recently shown that these medications may actually promote further deterioration of the joint. Therefore, although these medications may be helpful in reducing pain, they may not be beneficial in the long run. At the minimum, everyone would concur that they do nothing to help the repair process of the soft tissue injury.

Things that may help at the health food store:

Over the past several years additional information has accumulated in regards to the use of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and collagen II. These products are available without a prescription from health practitioners or the local health food stores. They have been shown to be effective in pill form or via injection. Glucosamine can be extremely helpful in reducing pain from osteoarthritis and can also help prevent further deterioration of the joint.

Another useful medicine for joint pain is Capsaicin. This is available either as a generic or proprietary cream (known as Zostrix). When applied to a painful joint on a regular basis, joint-related pain and muscle spasms are decreased to a significant degree. Side effects, other than warmth, are very rare. These creams literally work to decrease the amount of pain chemicals that are present in the tissues surrounding the joint.

As good as some of the treatments are for pain; (In our opinion) nothing comes close to the effectiveness of Prolotherapy. Prolotherapy can stimulate the regrowth of the injured tissue. Prolotherapy can tighten the ligaments around a joint and can also be quite helpful in reducing joint pain immediately, through direct injection into the joint. Proper exercise can then be resumed in order to bring the strength and flexibility of the surrounding muscles to a normal level. The muscles then help to protect the joints from any further injury.

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