Prolotherapy Research: Shin Splints

Ross Hauser, MDRoss Hauser, MD

Shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is caused by injury to muscle attachments onto the medial tibia which can include the soleus, posterior tibialis, among others. While traditional medicine treats shin splints with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) and NSAIDs, these can often make the structures weaker and is one of the reasons shin splints often come back. Many athletes look to alternative treatments like Prolotherapy as a long-term solution to dealing with shin splint pain. In our practice in Oak Park Illinois, we use Prolotherapy to stimulate the body to repair the painful injured area(s) when the body’s natural healing process is not able to do the job on its own. As an avid runner myself, I know how it feels to be sidelined with a running injury!

In a study published in the February 2011 issue by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, entitled: The effectiveness of Prolotherapy in the management of recalcitrant medial tibial stress syndrome: A pilot study – Curtin et al.(1) studied seven patients in a London private hospital. Subjects in the study received dextrose Prolotherapy under ultrasound guidance to the painful area of the tibia. One cc per of solution was injected per cm of the injured area. Using a visual analog scale (VAS) (10=highest pain, 0=no pain), all subjects reported a marked improvement in their symptoms after eighteen weeks post injection. The median VAS average pain score improvement per subject was 4/10, representing a return to the desired level of activity. In my experience with treating many runners, Prolotherapy has long proven to be a great option for treating shin splints compared to traditional remedies because Prolotherapy strengthens the actual weakened areas, which is good news for runners who can’t seem to get over the pain. In our experience, typically 3-6 visits of Prolotherapy are needed to resolve chronic shin splints. This study proves what we have known for years! Prolotherapy gets runners back on the road much more quickly than the traditional treatments of icing, wrapping, and rest – which may linger on for months and months.

Do I Need to Modify My Training?

We recommends that you continue your training and activities while receiving Prolotherapy. Runners however may want to decrease mileage and avoid doing too much too soon. Using the ellipitcal or power walking on the treadmill set at an incline to keep the heart rate up can help you continue to exercise during treatments. Stretching the Achilles and calf muscles is very important as is strengthening the lower leg muscles. Listen to your body. While some muscle aches or discomforts are to be expected when you push yourself, pain is not. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. If you continue exercising through pain, you risk injury. And if you have an injury, seek help. You risk more damage and your recovery will take longer if you don’t!

In other words, traditional treatments for running injuries often miss the root problem, causing the runner to cease training and risk dropping out of the race completely. Prolotherapy addresses the real problem, leading to safe and effective healing, allowing runners to get back to what they love. Many of our runner patients’ races have been saved using Prolotherapy to get them safely back to running.

Prolotherapy research studies and citations are listed on this page.

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