Prolotherapy, also known as nonsurgical ligament reconstruction, is a medical treatment for chronic pain.
“Prolo” is short for proliferation, because the treatment causes the proliferation (growth, formation) of new connective tissue in areas where it has become weak. Prolotherapy is primarily used to treat joint pain, and has been clinically shown to increase joint ligament strength by 30-40% in humans.
Clinical results using prolotherapy in dogs and cats appear to indicate the same response. Many elite human athletes use prolotherapy to strengthen their weak ligamentous tissues to prevent against future tears and injury.
Prolotherapy involves the treatment of weak or torn tendons and ligaments. A tendon attaches muscle to bone, and ligaments connect bone to bone, both are important for the stability and normal movement of joints. How prolotherapy works is simple.
A proliferant (collagen producing solution) is injected into the affected ligaments or tendons causing a localized inflammation which “turns on” the healing process and directly stimulates the growth of new collagen to strengthen damaged and weak ligament and tendon tissue. As the tendons and ligaments grow stronger and more capable of supporting and maintaining normal joint stability, the pain is alleviated.
How can Prolotherapy be Helpful to my Pet?
Prolotherapy is helpful for many different types of chronic musculoskeletal pain including:
- Degenerative Joint Disease
- Torn Ligaments
- Tendons and Cartilage
- Back Pain
- Neck Pain
- Partially Degenerated or Herniated Inter-Vertebral Disks
Beneficial For Both Cats and Dogs
Prolotherapy can be performed on both dogs and cats, however it is used most commonly in middle aged to geriatric dogs. Most owners report a 50-80% reduction in pain within the first two treatments.
The type of patient for which prolotherapy is appropriate includes but is not limited to:
- Animals with chronic osteoarthritis pain that involves one or more joints, often these animals have lameness involving the front and rear legs
- Geriatric animals with chronic arthritis or joint pain that are a high anesthetic risk animals with injury or tears of one or both anterior cruciate ligaments; prolotherapy treatment can protect the cruciate ligament in the non-surgical leg from rupture in cases where one ligament has already been repaired
- Animals post-surgery with genetic orthopedic disease (hip, shoulder and elbow dysplasia) and chronic lameness and pain despite surgical correction
- Performance animals (agility, working dogs) with ligament or tendon injuries
- Animals that are sensitive or have adverse reactions to conventional pain medications (Rimadyl, Dermaxx etc), or for which pain medications are ineffective
Prolotherapy is not a substitute for surgery; not all animals are candidates for this type of medical procedure. Each case is evaluated on an individual basis, and an examination is required to determine if prolotherapy is an appropriate therapy for your pet.
For more information on Veterinary Prolotherapy see:
- Recommended reading: Prolo Your Pain Away by Ross Hauser
Looking for more information on Prolotheraphy? Download a pdf on Prolotheraphy >
Is prolotherapy safe?
Yes, when performed by a licensed veterinarian trained in prolotherapy. Prolotherapy has been used in humans for over 35 years and with no reported significant side-effects. There can be some mild bruising and transient pain following the procedure. The prolotherapy techniques and solutions used in veterinary prolotherapy are the same as those used to perform prolotherapy in human medicine.
How is a prolotherapy treatment done?
Prolotherapy treatments are done by injecting the ligaments and tendons that support the joints with a prolotherapy solution which causes growth of new connective tissue to stabilize the affected joint(s) and relieve pain.
What type of animals can prolotherapy be performed on?
Prolotherapy is typically performed on dogs, cats, horses, however it can be performed on nearly any species of animal.
How long does a prolotherapy treatment take to perform?
In general, prolotherapy treatments are 20-45 minutes in duration depending on the animals condition and the number of joints are being treated.
Is prolotherapy painful?
Prolotherapy treatments are mild to moderately painful and so light reversible sedation is typically used for the procedure. Following the procedure, some animals may experience transient pain and soreness for 24-48 hours, however it is uncommon.
How many prolotherapy treatments will my animal need?
The number of treatments depends on the age, size, severity of the disease or condition being treated, and the individual animals response to treatment. In general most dogs and cats require 4 treatments performed 3-4 weeks apart. Larger animals with joint disease of both the front and rear legs and those with severe arthritis or degenerative joint disease will require more treatments than those with less severe disease.
How soon after prolotherapy can my dog exercise?
It is recommended to leash walk dogs for 24-48 hours after prolotherapy. Many dogs feel so much better after a prolotherapy treatment that they will over exercise unless restricted and can worsen their condition. No running, intense playing, jumping, going up and down stairs, doing tug of war is recommended during the duration of the treatments until instructed to increase the exercise.