Recently, I returned from my ninth mission trip to Honduras as part of a volunteer medical mission treating more than 1,000 indigent residents with prolotherapy injections. More than 70 physicians and support staff from several countries joined in the mission. Providers also received training on effective techniques for this injection therapy treatment that can heal injuries and reduce joint pain by using the body’s own sugar, dextrose, and lidocaine to spark the body’s natural healing process.
Organized by the non-profit Hackett Hemwall Patterson Foundation, these yearly mission trips to Honduras and Mexico bring much-needed relief to hard-working farmers and laborers, some of whom travel miles to reach a prolotherapy clinic. The mission additionally serves to educate providers on the latest injection therapy techniques for use in their practice.
Unfortunately, shortly after my return from abroad, a more questionable type of injection therapy was in the headlines statewide. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller currently is under criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers for using state funds last year for a trip to Oklahoma, ostensibly to receive a controversial medical treatment called the “Jesus shot.”
Miller, a pro rodeo calf roper, has repaid the state more than $1,000 after media scrutiny unearthed the trip that appears to have been for a personal medical visit. Miller reportedly sought the services of Dr. John Michael Lonergan, a convicted felon who served two years in prison in Ohio for tax evasion, and health care and mail fraud. Dr. Lonergan will not tell patients what is in the “Jesus Shot,” which he says will eliminate chronic joint pain for life.
Despite Dr. Lonergan’s disgraced background, he is licensed to practice medicine in Oklahoma. However, no accepted standard of care should allow a physician to keep details of a specific course of treatment from a patient.
Although Dr. Lonergan won’t say what is in the so-called “Jesus Shot,” former colleagues report the $300 injection is a mixture of Dexamethasone, Kenalog and vitamin B12. If true, the shot is essentially an anti-inflammatory corticol steroid potion that may temporarily relieve pain, but has no evidence-based research backing Dr. Lonergan’s claim that it can permanently cure joint pain.
As a taxpayer, I have concerns about Miller’s trip on the state dime. As a practitioner of evidence-based injection therapy treatments, I worry the new focus on Dr. Lonergan’s treatment will unfairly stain treatments that can provide long-lasting, and possibly permanent, relief from joint pain.
Prolotherapy, PRP injections and stem cell injections are being used daily around the world to help treat everything from sprained knees and tennis elbow to chronic tendonitis, osteoarthritis and acute ligament and muscle injuries. Many professional athletes including pro golfers like Tiger Woods, NBA superstars like Steph Curry and numerous Major League Baseball pitchers are using the process because of the track record of promoting speedy healing and recovery. Along with being an increasingly accepted alternative to surgery, some orthopedic surgeons are using PRP injections specifically to speed up post-surgery recovery.
Like the “Jesus Shot,” these therapies are not yet covered by insurance. They are,however, in clinical trials and being studied for their efficacy. Recent research shows that PRP injectinos, for example, are better at helping people with chronic joint pain than cortisone shots, viscosupplementation and other accepted FDA-approved pain management treatments. A 2013 study published in the Annals of Family Medicine (Dextrose Prolotherapy for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial) found that prolotherapy resulted in “clinically meaningful sustained improvement of pain, function, and stiffness scores for knee ostoarthritis compared with blinded saline injections and at-home exercises.”
Of course, many more people are reading about the “Jesus Shot” thanks to the current criminal investigation into the Texas agriculture commissioner. Hopefully, they can discern the difference between so-called miracle cures ersus proven scientific progress in orthopedic treatments.
Dr. Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical treatments to relieve pain and repair injuries. A former professional tennis player who competed on the WTA circuit, Dr. Zaharoff remains actively involved with the US Tennis Association. Learn more about her at www.drzmd.com. You can follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DrZaharoff.