An Innovative Therapy for Chronic Pain

An Innovative Therapy for Chronic Pain

Julian Whitaker, MD

When C. Everett Koop, MD, former US Surgeon General, was 40 years old, he had severe, constant pain in his lower back, radiating down his legs and into his feet. After seeing several neurologists, he was told there was nothing that could be done for him. Unwilling to submit to a lifetime of pain, he searched out and underwent a little-known therapy. After a few treatments, he noted remarkable improvement. Within a few weeks, he had complete relief of his “incurable” pain. Over the years, he had the same therapy for milder episodes of pain, each time with resounding success.

The therapy that relieved Dr. Koop’s chronic pain and that of hundreds of thousands of other people worldwide is prolotherapy. Developed 40 years ago by George S. Hackett, MD, a surgeon from Canton, Ohio, prolotherapy is based on the premise that much musculoskeletal pain is due to weakness of the ligaments and tendons. Ligaments and tendons are tough, fibrous bands of tissue that connect bone to bone, or bone to muscle. They are the stabilizers of the musculoskeletal system. As long as they are strong and taut, they keep bones, joints and muscles in place and allow for pain-free, smooth movement.

When the joints or ligaments become injured, weak or lax, these other structures become unstable and move out of position. The areas where the ligaments attach to the bones, called the fibro-osseous junctions, are rich in nerve endings, so the resulting misalignment can be quite painful and pain signals may be transmitted to nearby areas. Nerves and blood vessels may be compressed or pinched, and cartilage may be damaged.

Benefits Are Often Permanent

Prolotherapy corrects this by strengthening and stabilizing the ligaments and tendons. A slightly irritating solution is injected into the affected ligament, tendon, and/or joint capsule, causing inflammation. As the structures heal, they regain strength and stability. Pain goes away, and because the underlying problem has been corrected, it stays away.

This isn’t a new concept. Hippocrates reportedly inserted hot needles into the shoulder joint capsules of javelin throwers in Sparta to treat chronic dislocation. A precursor to prolotherapy, scar therapy or sclerotherapy (not to be confused with an unrelated treatment of the same name for varicose veins) has been used to treat damaged tendons since the 1930s. Dr. Hackett simply refined and renamed the procedure.

He published a landmark study spanning 21 years of treating 1,857 patients, aged 15 to 88, who had suffered with ligament weakness for three months to 65 years. He reported an 82 percent cure rate of these patients. A more recent study, published in the Lancet, involved 81 patients who had had chronic low back pain for over ten years. Half received prolotherapy injections, while the other half were injected with a saline solution. Thirty-five of the 40 who received prolotherapy experienced a greater than 50 percent improvement, while only 16 of the 41 on placebo had such an improvement.

Works for a Wide Variety of Conditions

We have used prolotherapy at Whitaker Wellness for several years now and have successfully treated patients with arthritis, rotator cuff problems, recurrent knee pain, whiplash injuries, sciatic pain, and other conditions. Our success rates are pretty impressive especially when you consider that some of our patients, like Dr. Koop, were given a life sentence of chronic pain.


  • For more information on receiving prolotherapy at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253 or click here.
  • If you’d like to learn more about this therapy, I recommend you read Prolo Your Pain Away. Call (800) 810-6655 to order a copy.


  • Faber, WJ & Walker, M. Pain Pain Go Away, ISHI Press International, Mountain View, CA, 1990.
  • Hackett, GS et al. Back pain following trauma and disease-prolotherapy. Military Medicine, July 1961: 517-525.
  • Ongley, M et al. A new approach to the treatment of chronic low back pain. Lancet, July 18, 1987: 143-146.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healingclick here.

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