Most people would prefer to avoid surgery unless it is absolutely necessary or needed to save their lives. As with any medical procedure, surgery comes with its own set of risks, primarily related to having to be placed under general anesthesia. General anesthesia in and of itself exposes the patient to potential complications, including cardiac arrest, over-medication, or even death.
Prolotherapy offers an alternative to many surgeries that are performed for musculoskeletal pain and injury, including sports injuries. Prolotherapy provides an in-office option that typically takes under an hour to complete. Anesthesia is not required and patients are generally able to perform activities within the next few days. Their activities may need to be altered due to the nature of the injury, but doctors who are experienced in Prolotherapy and rehabilitation are able to provide the patient with a program to ease them back into a full exercise regime and/or back to the sport(s) they wish to play.
Except in life threatening situations, surgery and its associated potential complications should become the last resort after all conservative treatments options have been exhausted. It should not be the first line treatment. Chronic pain is not a life-threatening situation so it should not be considered an automatic indication for surgery, which is far too often advised when other more conservative treatments exist but are often not offered.
Conservative treatments including the following or a combination of the following should first be considered: natural supplements, massage, physical therapy, chiropractic/osteopathic care, short-term medications, and Prolotherapy. Successful full-time Prolotherapy clinics will see success rates at 85-90% in avoiding surgery and returning the patients to normal activities pain-free. Only after a patient has tried Prolotherapy should surgery be considered.
Reasons to avoid surgery
- Rehabilitation time and costs: Rehabilitation after surgery requires much more time than after conservative treatments such as Prolotherapy and may often require many days of hospitalization and months of rehabilitative therapy, often out-of-pocket to the patient.
- Cost of surgery: The cost of surgery is huge compared to Prolotherapy. Just because surgery may be a so-called covered procedure by the insurance carrier, does not mean the patient will not be left with large medical bills related to co-pays. Often Prolotherapy is a much less expensive option, even if insurance may not cover its costs or only partially cover it. This is obviously a preferred option especially if the surgery may or may not work and the patient may end up needing Prolotherapy after the unsuccessful surgery.
- Trauma to the body and general anesthesia: Surgery is much more traumatic to the body and puts it under a tremendous stress. Recovering from general anesthesia often takes months to achieve full recovery and energy. Patients often take months to feel able to fully utilize the body part that received surgery. Prolotherapy produces local inflammation and the body typically heals very quickly after the procedure.
- Time off from work: Most surgeries require the patient to be off of work for at least 1 week with rehabilitation lasting upwards of 6-10 weeks. Prolotherapy is done in an outpatient clinic setting with a recovery time of typically less than 24 hours. Most people go back to work on the same day as the procedure, depending on the area treated.
- Ability to exercise while undergoing treatment: Surgery requires the patient abstain from exercising and it often takes months to get back the ability to maintain a full exercise regime. Prolotherapy done by an experienced Prolotherapy physician allows the patients to return to exercise or modified exercise programs the day or two after treatment in most cases.
- Perceived poor outcomes and/or certainty of recovery: Many patients want to avoid surgery due to the possibility that the surgery may actually worsen their condition and/or leave them with a new problem. The ineffectiveness of many of the usual and customary surgeries performed for musculoskeletal injuries is well documented. Prolotherapy will typically accelerate the body’s healing and rarely if ever worsens a person’s condition.
- Potential irreversible complications: With surgery comes all sorts of potential complications. Once something is removed from your body, you cannot put it back. If the meniscus is removed, you are now left to live the rest of your life without it and its function (provides cushion).
- Does not cause growth of injured tissue: Surgery will never cause growth of new tissue. Surgery typically involves removing tissue and/or structures of the body. Prolotherapy stimulates the body to repair itself.
Surgeries that can be avoided using Prolotherapy
- Knee surgeries: ACL/PCL/MCL repair, meniscectomy, joint replacement, arthroscopy
- Shoulder surgeries: labrum repair, rotator cuff tear repair, SLAP lesion repair, joint replacement
- Back surgeries: laminectomy, discectomy, lumbar fusion
- Neck surgeries: cervical fusion, herniated disc repair
- Ankle surgeries: ankle fusion, torn ligaments, arthroscopy, joint replacement
- Wrist surgeries: carpal tunnel surgery, wrist fusion
- Hip surgeries: labrum repairs, avascular necrosis, torn ligaments, joint replacement