HomeFeatured NewsDefining the Therapies Shaping Modern Veterinary Medicine: Prolotherapy vs Regenerative Medicine

Defining the Therapies Shaping Modern Veterinary Medicine: Prolotherapy vs Regenerative Medicine

Have you heard of the term “prolotherapy” and wondered: “Is that the same as platelet rich plasma or stem cell therapy?”. If you answered “yes”, you’re not alone! Prolotherapy, also known as “proliferation therapy” or “regenerative injection therapy”, is a term that is used to describe an area of therapeutics that result in proliferation and healing of damaged tissues.

Sounds very familiar to regenerative medicine, doesn’t it? That’s because prolotherapy works under the same principal of utilizing the body’s own healing capabilities to heal and repair tissues. But what makes it different than platelet rich plasma and stem cell therapies? In this blog, we will explore the uses of prolotherapy, what it consists of and how it differs in its method of action from the regenerative therapies we have come to understand.


What is prolotherapy?

Prolotherapy is a therapy in which an irritant solution is injected at a site of injury/pain with the goal of eliciting a temporary, low grade inflammatory response resulting in healing and repair of connective tissues. The irritant typically used for these procedures consists of 12-25% of Dextrose, the naturally occurring form of glucose.


How does prolotherapy work?

It is generally accepted that when a solution consisting of more than 10% dextrose is injected into a tissue, it creates an osmotic gradient outside of the cells. When a prolotherapy solution is injected into the tissue, it draws out water from within the cells, resulting in their lysis, also described as osmotic shock. When cells undergo apoptosis, they release signals to the body to undergo a wound-healing cascades at the specific sites of injuries. In essence, prolotherapy creates a minor injury to the tissue with the goal of an increased healing response to the tissue.1


What is prolotherapy typically used for?

Prolotherapy has been reported to be useful in facilitating the repair of weakened or unstable tendons and ligaments as well as various forms of spinal pathologies resulting in pain. While numerous studies have attempted to investigate prolotherapy for use in osteoarthritis, there has been very little evidence showing its efficacy over placebo for outcomes surrounding pain, peak vertical force, and range of motion in enrolled canine patients.1


How does prolotherapy differ from platelet rich plasma and stem cell therapies?

While prolotherapy does elicit an inflammatory response resulting in growth factors and healing cascades, it requires injecting an irritating solution to produce such a response. This irritating solution can be painful during and after the injection, necessitating an anesthetic agent to be utilized in conjunction with the injection.

In platelet rich plasma and stem cell therapies, the body’s own cells are injected into the site of injury where they initiate the healing cascade at the affected tissue. The environment of the tissue is modulated through naturally occurring pathways facilitated by the cells being injected. Since platelet rich plasma and stem cell therapies utilize the body’s own cells and the injection of them creates minimal irritation, further damage of the tissue is avoided.

 PRP Injection

1. J. Matthew Sherwood, James K. Roush, Laura J. Armbrust, and Walter C. Renberg (2017) Prospective Evaluation of Intra-Articular Dextrose Prolotherapy for Treatment of Osteoarthritis in Dogs. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association: May/June 2017, Vol. 53, No. 3, pp. 135-142.