Minnesota Good Age Magazine, 2011, excerpts from “Knees, hips, & elbows…Oh, my!” by By Patricia Carlson
“His knee was so bad, the orthopedic surgeon told Neufeld that he was on the road toward having a knee replacement. Not so fast, Neufeld responded.”
Dr. Frank Neufeld, a dentist from Hutchinson, MN, remembers the exact moment his favorite hobby sidelined him with searing pain. “The first time I hurt my knee I was running on the beach in the Cayman Islands,” says the 70-year-old avid runner. “That started all of my knee injuries.”
That was two-and-a-half years ago. Neufeld never got the initial injury diagnosed and had since battled through bouts of pain in his leg joints, mostly knees and hips. Then, last October, Neufeld injured his knee again and hamstring. “Going up and down steps bothered me,” he says. “I could not run on it all and had to take a few months off from tennis.”
Neufeld sought out a diagnosis and courses of treatment from his physician, chiropractor, and orthopedic specialist. “The orthopedic surgeon said it was partially bone on bone,” Neufeld explains. “There was no ligament damage but I evidently just irritated the heck out of it and [it] never got better.”
His knee was so bad, the orthopedic surgeon told Neufeld that he was on the road toward having a knee replacement. Not so fast, Neufeld responded. “I went online to find out if there was something else I could do to alleviate this thing.”
What he found was a little-known medical therapy called Prolotherapy (pronounced pro-lo-ther-a-pea) that repairs injured and painful joints and tissues without surgery. An article written by Dr. Alvin Stein on the Prolotherapy website getprolo.com states, “Prolotherapy is derived from the Latin word ‘proli’ which means to regenerate or rebuild. ‘Prolo’ is short for proliferation, because the treatment causes the proliferation,or growth or formation, of new ligament tissue in areas where it has become weak.”
Dr. George Kramer, a board certified physician who practices prolotherapy in Minnetonka, and who treats Neufeld, says prolotherapy works by causing a low-grade inflammation that stimulates connective tissue. The inflammation helps trick the body into going into action to finish the repair that it didn’t or couldn’t fully complete the first time around. There is even evidence in some studies that prolotherapy can also re-grow cartilage in some people.
“Prolotherapy is a series of two to three injections, given anywhere between three to six weeks apart,” explains Dr. Kramer. The injections are often made up of a combination of dextrose, water, and a numbing agent like lidocaine and other natural substances to stimulate healing. “Patients will experience a mild increase in soreness or stiffness for a few days after an injection, but that fades. And, when you’re done with prolotherapy usually no other treatment is needed. No pain medication needs to be taken.”
Dr. Kramer says one of the biggest benefits of prolotherapy is that it can help patients avoid joint replacement surgeries like knees and hips. “I’ve had many patients cancel their surgeries or at least stall the surgeries,” he says. That’s the main reason CJ O’Connor is undergoing prolotherapy treatments.
The 66-year-old spinning instructor had arthroscopic surgery in the late 1980s to repair a torn meniscus (cartilage in her knee). But pain and stiffness have continued to nag her. So when she heard about prolotherapy from a fellow golfer who avoided a total knee replacement, O’Connor wanted to give prolotherapy a try.
“This other lady golfer had six injections over a period of six weeks and her cartilage is growing,” O’Connor says. “I was so excited because I have bone on bone. I’ve had two injections and I am hopeful that my cartilage will start growing and I will escape having to have further surgery.”
“I really went through everything I could online about it,” says Neufeld. “It’s been around a long time, it’s not a fad, and it just sounded like it was worth a try.” Since re-injuring his leg in October, Neufeld has had a total of five treatments with Dr. Kramer; two for his hamstring and three for his knee. Neufeld says the first round of injections stung a bit but the discomfort has lessened with each subsequent round of injections. And he says the pain in his hamstring is
almost entirely gone and he doesn’t think he needs any more treatments.
Treating Neufeld’s knee has been a bit trickier because ligaments, tendons, and cartilage take longer to heal than muscle. Neufeld says his knee feels about 50% better but the pain is not entirely gone and he will need several more rounds of prolotherapy.
Neufeld admits that even with prolotherapy, his days of running half-marathons are probably over. But the treatment has served up pain freeplay on the tennis court — and that’s a result Neufeld loves.