I’m proud to say I’ve recently returned from a conference at theUniversityofWisconsinon regenerative injection therapies including prolotherapy, platelet-rich plasma injections and adult stem cell injections.

As a reminder, regenerative injections offer a non-surgical way of treating many common injuries including low back pain, shoulder injuries, tendinitis, tennis elbow and even degenerative joints of the knee, hips and ankles.  TheUniversityofWisconsinis one of the premier institutions in the world on the cutting edge of regenerative injection therapy training.

At the conference, we heard from researchers who presented more of the mounting evidence about the effectiveness of these therapies. I’m going to focus today on prolotherapy and platelet-rich plasma injections, and we’ll delve into the promising field of adult stem cell injections in the next column.

Prolotherapy involves a solution of dextrose – essentially a high concentration of glucose (sugar) with lidocaine.  The solution is injected into the injured area, which may be a ligament, tendon, muscle or and bone joint.

Now here’s where it gets tricky. This injection is designed to stimulate inflammation of the injured tissue which is the body’s signal to stimulate repair. In the past, anti-inflammatories or inflammation suppressants like cortisone have been used to treat the pain of the injury, but did little to promote repair. By inflaming the injured tissue, we trick the body into producing a healing response that can strengthen the weak tissue. A series of injections over weeks or months can result in permanent repair.

Platelet-rich Plasma Injections are another method of getting to the same reaction. We take the patient’s own blood and put it into a centrifuge – essentially a high-tech blender on super high speed. The blood separates out the plasma-rich platelets which are removed and re-injected into the injured area of the body. The platelets then do what they were designed to do in the body – they stimulate growth of healthy tissue.

The platelets put your body’s repair system into hyper drive and can cut recovery time by almost one third. So an acute injury that might take three months to heal might be repaired in two months.

For professional athletes, this is an obvious advantage. These injection therapies have been used to treat pulled muscles and hamstring injuries on athletes such as Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and many other pro football and baseball players.

But the treatment isn’t just for world-class athletes. At the conference my fellow physicians and I learned about rotator cuff injuries, knee injuries and even osteoarthritis improving after prolotherapy injections. Evidence-based research showed improve functionality and proven repair of muscles and ligaments using image scanning.

The growing evidence about regenerative injection therapies will, hopefully, make it a more common approach for treating musculoskeletal injuries.

Next week, we’ll talk about another cutting edge procedure for treating pain and injury without surgery – adult stem cell injections.