This article will cover information on Prolotherapy including general questions on Prolotherapy treatments, side effects, research, reviews and medical studies.

Prolotherapy is an in-office injection treatment that research and medical studies have shown to be an effective, trustworthy, reliable alternative to surgical and non-effective conservative care treatments.

Prolotherapy leads to pain cure

In our opinion, Comprehensive Prolotherapy is superior to many other treatments in curing chronic joint and spine pain and, most importantly, in getting people back to a happy and active lifestyle.

Before we continue, did you want to ask a question about our treatments?

The basic mechanism of Prolotherapy is simple.

Prolotherapy patient information in brief

Prolotherapy InfographicProlotherapy involves using a safe and simple base solution containing dextrose as the primary proliferant, along with an anesthetic (procaine), that is given into and around the entire painful/injured area (many injections vs only a few injections.)

This basic Prolotherapy solution used for over 70 years includes the above mentioned hypertonic dextrose (10­25% concentration) along with an anesthetic.

In our office, we often include other natural substances, such as Sarapin. The dextrose makes the solution more concentrated than blood (hypertonic), acting as a strong proliferant. Sarapin is used to treat nerve irritation and, in our experience, acts as a proliferant. Sarapin is an extract of the pitcher plant and is one of the few materials listed in the Physicians’ Desk Reference that has no known side effects. Procaine is an anesthetic that helps reinforce the diagnosis because the patient will experience immediate pain relief after the Prolotherapy injections.

The current Prolotherapy technique described here has been administered by Dr. Hemwall and our clinic to thousands of patients, administering millions of injections over the years.


We are often asked how many treatments are needed?

This is dependent upon the person’s overall health status, the extent of the condition, injury, tear, or arthritis. In our clinical experience, as well as in our research, we find the number of treatments that helps a person attain their goal averages 3 to 6 visits.

Because we treat a wide variety of cases, from young athletes with acute injuries to the elderly who have suffered through numerous surgeries and decades of anti-inflammatory pain medication, we work to tailor the treatment plans to the patients’ individual goals and needs.

While most patients have the goal of becoming pain-free and having increased stability and mobility in the joint, their activity goals must also be taken into consideration.

High level athletes may have more aggressive treatment needs than a retiree who does not desire to do a lot of activity. Thus, it is imperative to seek a practitioner who not only practices a thorough technique and has access to all types of  solutions, but also who understands sports medicine and rehabilitation for patients to do between treatments.

What is Prolotherapy? Prolotherapy patient information in detail

Does Prolotherapy work? The research starts here:

For patients who are looking into Prolotherapy, please understand that this is a specialty procedure with technique and experience being a key component. What we present on our website is based on our experience and research and does not apply to all practitioners or injection therapies.

In July 2016, doctors at Caring Medical published findings on the effectiveness of Prolotherapy treatments in the medical journal: Clinical Insights: Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Disorders, here are the summary highlights:

Our doctors reviewed 32 studies on dextrose prolotherapy for chronic musculoskeletal pain. The following conclusions are made:

Overall, Prolotherapy has been demonstrated to be efficacious and should be considered as a treatment for pain and dysfunction associated with chronic musculoskeletal conditions, particularly tendinopathies and osteoarthritis.

Hauser RA, Lackner JB, Steilen-Matias D, Harris DK. A Systematic Review of Dextrose Prolotherapy for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain. Clinical Medicine Insights Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Disorders. [Google Scholar]


The Biology of Prolotherapy


In research histologic studies of ligaments and tendons following Prolotherapy injections have shown an enhanced inflammatory healing reaction involving fibroblastic and capillary proliferation, along with growth factor stimulation.4-6

Animal research has documented that Prolotherapy-injected ligaments have an increased ligament mass, extracellular matrix, thickness and junction strength with bone.7-11

Prolotherapy is given to the articular ligaments of the entire spine, pelvis and peripheral joints to tighten unstable joints. Case series have documented the efficacy of Prolotherapy for ligament injuries of the sacroiliac joint 12-14, low back 15-16, neck 17-18, shoulder 19, elbow 20, knee 21-22 temporomandibular joint 23,24 and other articulations 25.

A discussion of Prolotherapy as non-surgical option

Most of the joints in the body are synovial joints, or freely movable joints. These joints function as a result of the unique properties of the articular cartilage that covers and protects the ends of the bones. If the cartilage is damaged or removed, so is the functioning of the joint, which suffers as bone rubs against bone instead of cartilage over cartilage.

Surgery can be broadly classified into open repair, in which a surgical incision is made for direct access and visualization of the injury site, and closed, or arthroscopic, repair, in which a miniature camera is used to look into the joint through a small hole, and specially designed tools are used to repair the tissue. Surgery almost always involves the removal of bone, ligaments and tendons. Many different types of surgery are common, including:

Reasons patients avoid surgery:

Am I a Candidate? The Ideal Prolotherapy candidate has the following:

  1. Pain originating from a ligament or tendon
  2. Strong immune system
  3. Willingness to improve and receive follow-up visits
  4. Healthy diet
  5. Positive mental outlook

Prolotherapy Treatment Goals

What are the goals of Prolotherapy treatments?

Questions about Prolotherapy injections at the time of treatment

We are asked by every patient: Do the injections hurt? This depends on the condition and a person’s own pain tolerance. Most people surprise themselves at how well they do during a treatment because it is over in a matter of minutes.

What are the options for providing a “painless” Prolotherapy procedure?

For those requiring Prolotherapy injections in many areas at one time or in delicate areas, some form of nitrous, sedation, or other medication is often suggested, such as with Ehlers-Danlos patients, or in cases where the pain of the condition itself already an excruciating “10 out of 10,” such as in cases of Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. After treating thousands of patients who claim how much they “hate needles” (rest assured, these patients make it through just fine), it is good to remember that  the goal of the treatment outcome should outweigh any hesitancy about the discomfort during the procedure, especially when there are now better options than ever to reduce procedural pain.

Most of our patients receive Prolotherapy without the help of medication and do just fine!

Prolotherapy Side effects and risks

Prolotherapy Side effects and risks

Because Prolotherapy causes inflammation, the person will often note some bruising, pain, stiffness and swelling in the area after receiving Prolotherapy. Typically this lasts 1 to 7 days. On rare occasions it lasts longer. Lasting longer is not necessarily bad, some people just inflame more easily. Since the treatment works by inflammation, lingering pain after Prolotherapy can be a sign of healing. If the pain is severe after Prolotherapy, then call the office where the Prolotherapy was done. Prolotherapy should not cause excessive, severe pain. Severe pain after Prolotherapy, especially accompanied by a fever, could indicate an infection. Infection after Prolotherapy is the most serious risk that we have seen.

The risk of infection after Prolotherapy is between 1 and 1000 to 1 and 10,000 procedures. The most common infection with Prolotherapy is an infection in the skin. This type of infection typically responds to an antibiotic taken by mouth. If a joint or blood infection results, then intravenous antibiotics will typically be needed for six weeks.

Since some of the risks with Prolotherapy relate to the actual technique done, it is important to go to a clinic with a lot of experience.

Prolotherapy for knee pain

Prolotherapy for knee pain
Research conducted by our team members at Caring Medical and independent investigators have found Prolotherapy to be an effective non-surgical treatment for various knee pathologies and degeneration.

Doctors from the University of Wisconsin continued their research into Prolotherapy. They found Prolotherapy resulted in safe, significant, progressive improvement of knee pain, function and stiffness scores among most participants and continued as such at follow up an average of 2.5 years after initial treatment.

They concluded Prolotherapy may be an appropriate therapy for patients with unresponsive knee osteoarthritis. 26

Caring Medical doctors  investigated Prolotherapy in patients  with unresolved knee pain at a charity clinic in rural Illinois. Eighty patients, representing a total of 119 knees, were treated every three months with Prolotherapy. On average, 15 months following their last Prolotherapy session, patients were contacted and asked numerous questions in regard to their levels of pain and a variety of physical and psychological symptoms, as well as activities of daily living, before and after their last Prolotherapy treatment. The results of this study showed that patients had:

Other researchers have shown that Prolotherapy injections resulted in safe and substantial improvement in quality of life in knee osteoarthritis patients.28 Prolotherapy resulted in clinically meaningful sustained improvement of pain, function, and stiffness scores for knee osteoarthritis compared with blinded saline injections and at-home exercises.29 In other Caring Medical research, Dr. Hauser was able to document articular cartilage regeneration.30  In April 2016, researchers confirmed that Prolotherapy could regrow articular cartilage in the knee in a study of patients with an average age of 71 seventy-one.31

In patients with symptoms of anterior cruciate ligament laxity and weakness, intermittent Prolotherapy injections resulted in clinically and statistically significant improvement in pain, swelling, and knee range of motion.32

This was confirmed by September 2016 research from the Universities of Wisconsin, Chicago, and Minnesota which found “Most (Prolotherapy) participants reported substantially improved knee-specific effects, resulting in improved quality of life and activities of daily living.”36

More information can be found at these articles:

Prolotherapy and PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) Injections for Knee Pain

Comprehensive Prolotherapy is an injection technique utilizing many healing factors. They can include or be used in conjunction with Dextrose, Blood Platelets, and stem cells. The stem cells and blood platelets are drawn from you the patient. In research, PRP by itself has been shown to be a remarkable treatment for knee osteoarthritis. However, other research points out that PRP’s effects may not be long lasting or beyond six months.33 At Caring Medical we developed comprehensive Prolotherapy and inject the supportive structures of the knee with dextrose Prolotherapy and other growth factors. Simply, while PRP can address and repair damaged cartilage, it is not addressing the ligament and tendon weakness that contributed to the cartilage deterioration. Comprehensive Prolotherapy seeks to repair the entire knee.

For a more detailed discussion on:

Prolotherapy and Stem Cells for Knee Pain

Bone marrow derived stem cells

In this study, Caring Medical doctors examined the use of a simple, cost-effective regenerative treatment using direct injection of bone marrow stem cells into osteoarthritic joints in combination with dextrose Prolotherapy. Seven patients with hip, knee or ankle osteoarthritis received two to seven treatments over a period of two to twelve months. All patients reported improvements with respect to pain, as well as gains in functionality and quality of life. Three patients, including two whose progress under other therapy had plateaued or reversed, achieved complete or near-complete symptomatic relief, and two additional patients achieved resumption of vigorous exercise.34 

For a more comprehensive article please see: The stem cell alternative to knee replacement

Prolotherapy for back pain

Prolotherapy for back pain

Caring Medical patients are often surprised to learn that Prolotherapy can heal most disc problems in neck and back. While we talk about Prolotherapy healing joint pain that results from ligament and tendon injuries, most people are unaware that disc problems results from ligament injuries or instability along the spine. Patients with degenerative disc disease,herniated discs, bulging discs, bone on bone, etc can all be healed with Prolotherapy.

Prolotherapy works to stabilize the ligaments of the spine allowing discs to get back into position and can even create space to a person who has lost space due to one or more degenerated disc. In Prolotherapy research from the doctors of Caring Medical, patients with more than four years of unresolved low back pain were shown to have had their pain improved, stiffness, range of motion, and quality of life measures even 12 months subsequent to their last Prolotherapy session.35 More information can be found on these pages on our site Prolotherapy for Chronic Low Back Pain.

Prolotherapy for Shoulder Pain

In published research from Caring Medical doctors, The optimal long-term, symptomatic therapy for chronic shoulder pain has not been established. Accordingly, we investigated the outcomes of patients undergoing Hackett-Hemwall dextrose Prolotherapy treatment for unresolved shoulder pain at a charity clinic in rural Illinois.

Doctors at The University of British Columbia, University of Kansas, and University of Missouri-Kansas City published joint research that found: In participants with painful rotator cuff tendinopathy who receive physical therapy and Prolotherapy, treatments resulted in superior long-term pain improvement and patient satisfaction. “Prolotherapy may improve on the standard care of painful rotator cuff tendinopathy for certain patients.”37

Prolotherapy for hip pain

Prolotherapy research for hip pain

In the Journal of Prolotherapy we sought to show how Prolotherapy could provide high levels of patient outcome satisfaction while avoiding hip surgery. Here is what we reported:

Patients were contacted an average of 19 months following their last Prolotherapy session and asked questions regarding their levels of pain, physical and psychological symptoms and activities of daily living, before and after their last Prolotherapy treatment.

Results: In these 94 hips,

The results confirm that Prolotherapy is a treatment that should be highly considered for people suffering with chronic hip pain.38

Published research on Prolotherapy:
Dr. Ross Hauser and our team have published a number of research papers, case studies, and scientific editorials in the Journal of Prolotherapy, including articles on Prolotherapy as an alternative to surgery; Prolotherapy for chronic back pain; cartilage regeneration in knees; Stem cell therapy for degenerative joint disease; Prolotherapy as for meniscus tears, and many, many more.

Our Prolotherapy research papers, case studies, & scientific editorials:

4. Maynard J. Morphological and biomechanical effects of sodium morrhuate on tendons. Journal of Orthopaedic Research. 1985;3:236-248.  [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
5. Hackett G. Joint stabilization: An experimental, histologic study with comments on the clinical application in ligament proliferation. American Journal of Surgery. 1955;89:968-973.
6. Kim HJ, Kim SH, Yun DH. The effects of anti-inflammatory drugs on histologic findings of the experimental prolotherapy model. Journal of the Korean Academy of Rehabilitation Medicine. 2006;30:378-384.
7. Liu Y. An in situ of the influence of a sclerosing solution in rabbit medial collateral ligaments and its junction strength. Connective Tissue Research. 1983;2:95-102. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
8. Jensen KT, Rabago DP, Best TM. Response of knee ligaments to prolotherapy in a rat injury model. American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2008;36:1347-1357. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
9. Klein R. Proliferant injections for low back pain: histologic changes of injected ligaments and objective measures of lumbar spine mobility before and after treatment. Journal of Neurology, Orthopedic Medicine and Surgery. 1989;10:141-144. [AAOM Citation]
10. Harman R, et al. A retrospective review of 62 cases of suspensory ligament injury in sport horses treated with adipose-derived stem and regenerative cell therapy. Proceedings of the Veterinarian Orthopedic Society, 2006.
11. Dahlgren LA. Use of adipose derived stem cells in tendon and ligament injuries. American College of Veterinarian Surgery Symposium on Equine Small Animal Proceedings. 2006;150-151.
12. Hackett, G. Shearing injury to the sacroiliac joint. Journal of the International College of Surgeons. 1954;22:631-642.
13. Lee JD, Lee DW, J CW. Effects of intraarticular prolotherapy on sacroiliac joint pain. Korean Journal of Pain. 2009;229-233.[PubMed Citation]
14. Cusi M, Saunders J, Hungerford B. The use of prolotherapy in the sacroiliac joint. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2010;44:100-104. [PubMed Citation]
15. Hackett G. Back pain following trauma and disease-Prolotherapy. Military Medicine. 1961;July:517-525.
16. Hackett, G. Low back pain. The British Journal of Physical Medicine. 1956;19:25-35.
17. Hooper RA, Frizzell JB, Faris P. Case series on chronic whiplash related neck pain treated with intraarticular zygapophysial joint regeneration injection therapy. Pain Physician. 2007;10:313-318.[PubMed Citation]
18. Centeno CJ, Elliott J, Elkins WL. Fluoroscopically guided cervical prolotherapy for instability with blinded pre and post radiographic reading. Pain Physician. 2005;8:67-72.[PubMed Citation]
19. Jo D, Ryu K, Yang S. The effects of Prolotherapy on shoulder pain. Korean Journal of Anesthesiology. 2004;46:589-592.
20. Hauser R, Hauser M, Holian P. Hackett-Hemwall Dextrose Prolotherapy for unresolved elbow pain. Practical Pain Management. 2009;October:14-26. [PPM Citation]
21. Kim JM. The effect of prolotherapy for osteoarthritis of the knee. Journal of the Korean Academy of Rehabilitation Medicine. 2002;26:445-448.
22. Reeves KD, Hassanein K. Randomized prospective double-blind placebo-controlled study of dextrose prolotherapy for knee osteoarthritis with or without ACL laxity. Alternative Therapies. 2000;6:68-79.
23. Hakala RV. Prolotherapy in the Treatment of TMD. The Journal of Craniomandibular Practice. 2005;23:1-6.
24. Schultz, L. A treatment of subluxation of the temporomandibular joint. Journal of the American Medical Association. September 25, 1937.
25. Reeves KD, Topol GA, Fullerton BD. Evidence-based regenerative injection therapy (prolotherapy) in sports medicine. In Seidenberg PH, Beutler PI. (Eds). The Sports Medicine Resource Manual. Saunders (Elsevier); 2008:611-619.
26. Rabago D, Mundt M, Zgierska A, Grettie J. Hypertonic dextrose injection (prolotherapy) for knee osteoarthritis: Long term outcomes. Complement Ther Med. 2015 Jun;23(3):388-95. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2015.04.003. Epub 2015 Apr 8.
27. Hauser RA, Hauser MA. A Retrospective Study on Dextrose Prolotherapy for Unresolved Knee Pain at an Outpatient Charity Clinic in Rural Illinois Journal of Prolotherapy. 2009;1(1):11-21.
28. Rabago D et al. Association between disease-specific quality of life and magnetic resonance imaging outcomes in a clinical trial of prolotherapy for knee osteoarthritis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 Nov;94(11):2075-82. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2013.06.025. Epub 2013 Jul 10.
29. Rabago D. et al.  Dextrose prolotherapy for knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Fam Med. 2013 May-Jun;11(3):229-37. doi: 10.1370/afm.1504.
30. Hauser RA. The Regeneration of Articular Cartilage with Prolotherapy. Journal of Prolotherapy. 2009;1:39-44.
31. Topol GA, Podesta LA, Reeves KD, Giraldo MM, Johnson LL, Grasso R, Jamín A, Tom Clark DC, Rabago D. The Chondrogenic Effect of Intra-articular Hypertonic-dextrose (prolotherapy) in Severe Knee Osteoarthritis. PM R. 2016 Apr 4. pii: S1934-1482(16)30054-5. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2016.03.008.
29. Reeves KD, Hassanein KM. Long-term effects of dextrose prolotherapy for anterior cruciate ligament laxity. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 May-Jun;9(3):58-62.
30. Khoshbin A, Leroux T, Wasserstein D, Marks P, Theodoropoulos J, Ogilvie-Harris D, Gandhi R, Takhar K, Lum G, Chahal J. The efficacy of platelet-rich plasma in the treatment of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review with quantitative synthesis. Arthroscopy. 2013 Dec;29(12):2037-48. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2013.09.006.
31. Stem Cell Therapy and Prolotherapy research Hauser RA, Orlofsky A. Regenerative injection therapy with whole bone marrow aspirate for degenerative joint disease: a case series. Clin Med Insights Arthritis Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 Sep 4;6:65-72. doi:11.4137/CMAMD.S10951. eCollection 2013.
32. Hauser RA, Hauser MA Dextrose Prolotherapy for Unresolved Low Back Pain: A Retrospective Case Series Study Journal of Prolotherapy. 2009;3:145-155.
33. Hauser RA, Hauser MA Dextrose Prolotherapy for Unresolved Low Back Pain: A Retrospective Case Series Study Journal of Prolotherapy. 2009;3:145-155.
34. Steindler A, Luck JV. Differential diagnosis of pain low in the back  JAMA. 1938;110(2):106-113.
35. Hauser R, Hauser M, A Retrospective Study on Hackett-Hemwall Dextrose Prolotherapy for Chronic Hip Pain at an Outpatient Charity Clinic in Rural Illinois. Journal of Prolotherapy. 2009;2:76-88.
36. Rabago D, van Leuven L, Benes L, Fortney L, Slattengren A, Grettie J, Mundt M. Qualitative Assessment of Patients Receiving Prolotherapy for Knee Osteoarthritis in a Multimethod Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Sep 7.
37. Bertrand H, Reeves KD, Bennett CJ, Bicknell S, Cheng AL. Dextrose Prolotherapy Versus Control Injections in Painful Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2016 Jan;97(1):17-25.

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