Prolotherapy for sciatica is a type of controversial injection therapy used to treat some forms of chronic back and leg pain. Prolotherapy is an organic traditional medical modality, which makes it unique in its theory and application. Unlike most other medical treatments, prolotherapy initiates a reaction in the body in an effort to enact a natural healing response from the anatomy, rather than using drugs or surgery to treat a painful complaint. Prolotherapy is as close to holistic as traditional medicine is ever likely to become.
This commentary details prolotherapy injections which are used for relieving the symptoms of sciatica.
Prolotherapy, also called sclerotherapy, sclerosant therapy or proliferation therapy, is a series of injections into the painful area of the back, hip or buttocks. These injections are used for various diagnosed conditions, but are especially common for sacroiliac joint concerns and non-specific lower back pain problems relating to the soft tissues.
During a prolotherapy procedure, an organic substance, such as cod liver oil or sugar solution, is injected into the suspected source of pain. Most commonly, the target of this injection is a ligament or tendon which is thought to be creating or exacerbating the ongoing sciatica symptoms.
The injected substance irritates the soft tissue or joint capsule, eliciting a natural healing response. This process is thought to help rebuild damaged or lax ligaments or tendons and might be successful in resolving some symptomatic expressions. As previously mentioned, this is a very controversial therapy modality which is not indicated for most traditional diagnoses of sciatic nerve symptoms.
Prolotherapy is not proven to do anything in many patients. There are not many research studies available and the few which have been performed do not contain long-term or overly accurate curative statistics.
Prolotherapy procedures are not very risky, but there is a chance for infection or nerve damage in rare cases. The treatment is not particularly painful, but the time period after the injection can be very uncomfortable.
Remember that the goal of this injection is to irritate natural tissue and this can be a very uncomfortable process to endure over several weeks.
Prolotherapy is not indicated for most spinal and neurological causes of lower back and leg pain, but may be a good option to investigate if your symptoms have been blamed on a muscular or other soft tissue condition, such as piriformis syndrome or sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
I support the holistic theory behind this therapy modality, but question its application and effectiveness in some patients. I have seen the treatment used in many people who did not even have an accurate diagnosis, simply because the pain could not be definitively traced to a specific anatomical source and the treatment was low risk. This is "guess medicine" and is certainly not an ideal treatment protocol for any problematic health condition.
If you feel prolotherapy might be a good choice for you and your particular form of pain, talk to your doctor about trying a series of injections. You really have very little to lose, but be prepared for an increase in symptoms before they have any hope of getting better. Be warned that the treatment itself can sometimes produce extreme pain in rare cases, if the tissue has a particularly violent reaction to the irritating agent.
It should be noted that prolotherapy is one of the few invasive types of treatment which often gets a nod of approval from complementary caregivers, such as chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists.