Neural Prolotherapy

The technique used by Dr. Seema Kanwal

Dr. John Lyftogt, from New Zealand, struggled for years to help find some relief for his chronic pain patients.  He developed a treatment that he termed Neural Prolotherapy while working on relieving Achilles tendonopathy.  Neural Prolotherapy is an injection therapy with 5% dextrose (sugar) that focuses on treating the nerves in the skin that have become injured and entrapped due to inflammation.   Although the nerves are superficial, the pain they create is often felt in the deeper tissues.  The injection of low-dose dextrose changes the pain signaling and stops neurogenic inflammation (what your doctor may have called neuropathic pain).  The dextrose solution also has a regenerative effect on the entrapped nerves helping them to heal and preventing recurrence.

FAQs about Neural Prolotherapy

How does Neural Prolotherapy treatment work?

5% Dextrose is injected beneath the skin surface with a tiny needle over the commonly constricted regions of nerves. Patients with nerve pain (neurogenic pain) experience pain relief within seconds. This is often a surprise to the patient! 

The 5% dextrose works by immediately blocking the receptor in the nerve (TRPV-1 or Capsacin receptor) which is the principal regulator of pain and inflammation. Changing the receptors in the nerve allow for healing to deeper structures like tendons, ligaments and joints (Hilton’s law). Other substances also can block this receptor like procaine, magnesium and salt which may explain why Epsom salt bath soaks are so popular; however, unlike dextrose these other substances do not reset the receptors, they only temporarily block them. Vitamin D is also being researched for it’s effect on nerve pain. 

What is the treatment like?

Dr. Kanwal will track the pain by feeling for inflamed nerves in the skin. These nerves aren’t usually palpable but when they are inflamed and constricted they feel like small taut hoses that can be exquisitely painful to touch. Once the nerves have been tracked they are injected along their lengths with 5% dextrose. The number of injections is quite variable but because the nerves are irritated they can be intense – much like a number of small bee stings. Most patients require between 3 – 8 series of injections for complete resolution of pain. It is not uncommon for new areas that were originally masked to have to be treated as well. Because the treatment is diagnostic (a painful injection indicates immediately if there is nerve injury involvement), patients will notice some improvement right away. For some people this relief lasts generally for several days; however, if the injury has been endured for a long period then the length of relief may be short. Subsequent treatments result in progressively longer improvements until complete relief is achieved in most patients.

Are there any side effects to Neural Prolotherapy?

At most the patient may have some brief tenderness, itchiness and/or bruising at the injection site. Physical activity is not restricted post-injection, with most patients returning to their usual workouts the same day or next day. More than 98% of patients tolerate the minimal discomfort associated with the injections without a problem. The occasional patient who is needle phobic or pain sensitive may not be a good candidate.

What conditions may benefit from Neural Prolotherapy?

Fibromyalgia, post-herpetic neuralgia, headaches, migraines, whiplash, neck pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain, wrist pain, hand pain, low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, foot pain, ankle pain; tendinitis, arthritis, bursitis, sciatica and muscle/ligament injuries also benefit from Neural Prolotherapy.

Prolotherapy is a safe procedure. The risks are far less than taking Aspirin or Ibuprofen for a lifetime to temporarily alleviate chronic pain. However, as in any medical procedure involving needles, there is at least a slight risk. In Prolotherapy, the risks and side effects will vary depending on the area being treated, and Dr. Kanwal always will discuss these possibilities fully with patients in the initial consultation visit.

Insurance coverage of Prolotherapy varies widely depending on your insurance provider. It is better to check your own individual provider.