A medical procedure that "tricks" the body into healing itself, prolotherapy treats acute or chronic pain from damaged ligaments, tendons and cartilage. Some studies show significant improvement in patients with injuries or arthritis, especially in the joints, back, neck or jaw. Prolotherapy is used as a first-line therapy or when other treatments fail.

  • How it works. A physician injects a solution, typically of dextrose (a sugar) and lidocaine (an anesthetic), into the painful area. This provokes minor, temporary inflammation...causing the body to send more blood and nutrients to the spot...which hastens healing.
  • What to expect. Each session lasts 15 to 30 minutes and includes from one to 20 injections, depending on the areas treated. Patients experience slight discomfort during injection and mild soreness for several days after. Minor pain might need one session...severe pain might require 10 sessions spread over several months.

Cost: $100 to $400 per session. Because prolotherapy is considered experimental, insurance seldom covers it.

  • Cautions. Your doctor may advise you to temporarily reduce or discontinue use of antiinflammatory drugs—aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin), naproxen (Aleve)while undergoing prolotherapy. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is okay. If you take blood thinners or other drugs, tell your doctor-extra precautions may be warranted.
  • How to find a practitioner. Prolotherapy should be administered by a physician trained in the procedure—preferably through the American Association of Orthopedic Medicine (800-9922063, www.aaomed.org) or the Hackett Hemwall Foundation (www.hackettbemwall.org). Visit these Web sites for referrals.

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