What Are the Dangers of Prolotherapy?

Written by leonor crossley
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Prolotherapy is a non-surgical treatment for chronic pain in the muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments that can occur with such conditions as arthritis, back pain, knee injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, muscular dystrophy and numerous other musculoskeletal conditions. The purpose of the treatment, which involves an injection of a solution of sugar water into a ligament or tendon, is to cause a regrowth and repair of damaged muscular tissue. The solution causes an inflammation in the area which triggers the body to send more blood and nutrients to attempt to heal itself. As with any medical procedure, there are some slight possible risks or side effects. For many patients though, the benefits that occur after treatment far outweigh any risks that may occur in very few cases.


A patient shows signs of infection if there is pain in the treated area, along with a noticeable fever. The risk of obtaining an infection from prolotherapy is considerably low, occurring in about 1 in every 1,000 to 1 in every 10,000 performed procedures. Oral antibiotics can be taken for skin infections. If more complicated infections of the blood or joints occur, intravenous antibiotics are needed for up to 6 weeks.

Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak

A cerebrospinal fluid leak is also referred to as a spinal headache. Although it occurs very rarely, it is possible for a doctor performing prolotherapy anywhere along the spine to penetrate the spinal canal and cause the leakage.

Punctured Lung

Doctors know from years of experience that not all people's anatomies are exactly the same. If a person's lung is in an abnormally higher position than most patients, it is possible for a punctured or collapsed lung to occur. A partial lung collapse is possible to be treated at home with careful observation. If the collapse is more severe, it may require a hospital stay and surgical placement of a chest tube to reinflate the lung.

Nerve, Tendon or Ligament Damage

Just as a punctured lung can occur because of its unusual placement in some individuals, a nerve can be struck during a prolotherapy treatment if it is in an unusual position. It is also possible to cause nerve, tendon or ligament damage if a doctor is not as experienced in performing the procedure. It is important to find a qualified doctor that has a good track record performing successful prolotherapy treatments. If the needle strikes a nerve, it can cause a pricking sensation with heat travelling down the arm or leg. This side effect usually passes with time.


The procedure may lead to a burst blood vessel and some bruising. This could cause moments of slight dizziness that should also pass with time. If the procedure is performed correctly, blood vessels should be avoided.


Pain is a common risk that is most often experienced after prolotherapy. It is normal for a patient to feel sore for several days. A sudden jolt of pain may be felt after a couple of weeks as the tendons and ligaments are beginning to tighten during the healing process.

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