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What is Prolotherapy?

Prolotherapy is an alternative therapy that may help promote the healing process of body tissues. It is a form of regenerative injection therapy or proliferation therapy.


Prolotherapy dates back thousands of years, according to some experts in the medical field. There are different types of prolotherapy, but they all aim to support the body to repair itself.


Prolotherapy involves injecting a sugar (Dextrose) or salt solution (saline) into a joint or different body part to treat some common conditions. Examples are:


  • Tendon, muscle, and ligament problems
  • Arthritis of the knees, hips, and fingers
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headache
  • Sprains and strains
  • Lax or unstable joints



How does prolotherapy treat joint pain?

Dextrose prolotherapy involves injecting a solution containing irritants — a dextrose solution — into a specific area where damage or injury has occurred. The irritants stimulate the body’s natural healing response, leading to the growth of new tissues.


The therapy might help:

  • Reduce pain and stiffness
  • Improved strength, function, and mobility of the joint
  • Increase the strength of ligaments and other tissues
  • Increase circulation to the injured area


Prolotherapy is a treatment for musculoskeletal injuries related to overuse. It may also relieve pain due to osteoarthritis. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are another symbol of prolotherapy that some people use for OA.


What is the current research on prolotherapy?

Prolotherapy may provide some pain relief. In one study, 90 adults who had had painful OA of the knee for 3 months or more had either dextrose prolotherapy or saline injections plus exercise as a treatment. The participants had an initial injection plus further injections after 1, 5, and 9 weeks. Some had further injections at weeks 13 and 17. All those who had the injections reported improvements in pain, function, and stiffness levels after 52 weeks, but the improvements were greater among those who had the dextrose injections. In another investigation, 24 people with OA of the knee received three dextrose prolotherapy injections at 4-week intervals. They saw significant improvements in pain and other symptoms. A 2016 review concluded that dextrose prolotherapy could help people with OA of the knee and fingers. One lab study concluded that it might work by triggering an immune response.



What are the risks of prolotherapy?

Possible adverse effects include:

  • Pain and stiffness
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising and swelling
  • Infection
  • Allergic reactions


Depending on the type of prolotherapy, less common adverse effects are:

  • Spinal headache
  • Nerve, ligament, or tendon damage
  • A collapsed lung, known as pneumothorax



Preparation before prolotherapy

Before giving prolotherapy, if you have any diagnostic images, including MRI scans and X-rays, please bring them in, and Dr. Zi will review them with you.

Discuss your medications, supplements, and allergies with Dr. Zi before having the treatment.



What you will expect for a prolotherapy procedure

The entire procedure might vary depending on individual need, but in general, this will include:  

Clean your skin. 

Apply numbing cream to the injection site to reduce pain. 

Inject the solution in the affected areas. 


The process should take around 30 minutes, including preparation.

Immediately after treatment, it may need to apply ice or heat packs to the treated areas for 10–15 minutes. During this time, you will rest.

Then you’ll be able to go home.



Recovery from prolotherapy

Immediately after the procedure, you’ll likely notice some swelling and stiffness. Most people can resume normal activities by the next day, although bruising, discomfort, swelling, and stiffness may continue for up to a week.

Seek medical attention at once if you notice:

  • Severe or worsening pain, swelling, or both
  • A fever




Prolotherapy doesn’t have approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and most insurance policies won’t cover it.

Depending on your treatment plan, call Dr. Zi to discuss the cost of the entire treatment. The cost will be $150 per treatment session. 

The number of treatments will vary according to individual needs.

According to an article published in the Journal of Prolotherapy, the following are typical courses of treatment:

  • For an inflammatory condition involving a joint: three to six injections at intervals of 4 to 6 weeks.
  • For neural prolotherapy, for example, to treat nerve pain in the face: Weekly injections for 5 to 10 weeks.




Dextrose prolotherapy involves injections of a saline or dextrose solution into a specific part of the body, such as a joint. In theory, the solution acts as an irritant, which may stimulate the growth of new tissues.

While it is likely to be safe, there is a risk of adverse effects, and you may experience discomfort for some days after the treatment. For more information, please contact Dr. Zi.