Prolotherapy, as the Doctor Skeptic points out, is 'the illusion of effectiveness.'
Some may claim it's a treatment for joint pain that involves injecting substances, often an actual pain killer/blocker combined with saline or sugar water directly into the joint. That should actually induce inflammation, which should cause a cellular reactions into affected tissues.
In therory they are correct, it WILL create a 'reaction.' However, the results they believed would happen are wrong, and the contraindications are clearly not worth 'their cure.'
There have been a number of studies and reviews investigating the use of prolotherapy in humans. Overall, the evidence has a very real leaning toward ineffective, with some even pointing to dangerous.
Most of the actual studies to date have been generally low quality, but enough information has been gathered to determine that it's likely a wrong direction for modern medical treatments to take.
One of the best studies to date, is the 'Cochrane Review' of prolotherapy.
It focused on lower back pain, examining five independant studies involving 366 people. That review concluded, "There is conflicting evidence regarding the efficacy of prolotherapy injections for patients with chronic low-back pain. When used alone, prolotherapy is not an effective treatment for chronic low-back pain. When combined with spinal manipulation, exercise, and other co-interventions, prolotherapy may improve chronic low-back pain and disability. Conclusions are confounded by clinical heterogeneity amongst studies and by the presence of co-interventions."
However, the insurance companies Aetna and Cigna, along with the Veterans Administration, have each published the results of their extensive reviews of the scientific literature on prolotherapy. Each pointing out that it's 'no better than placebo effect, and new evidence from case series would not alter these conclusions.'
There has been limited efforts to assess the risks of prolotherapy, especially in humans.
One survey, of practitioners of this treatment, resulted in the following reported contraindications:
Dagenias et al. (2006) studied the effects and adverse events related to prolotherapy for back and neck pain. Surveys were mailed to members of the American College of Osteopathic Pain Management and Sclerotherapy (ACOPMS) and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Medicine (AAOM), both closely affiliated with prolotherapy conference, in addition to nonmembers attending the 2004 AAOM annual conference.
Almost 98% of the respondents to the survey held MD or DO degrees, and 83% were board certified in related disciplines.
A 50% response rate was obtained.
The authors published that the side effect with the highest estimated median prevalence was:
~ temporary post-injection pain (70%),
~ stiffness (25%),
~ bruising (5%), and
~ temporary numbness (1%).
The most commonly reported adverse events (total of 472) were:
~ spinal headache (n=164),
~ pneumothorax (n=123),
~ temporary systemic reactions (n=73), and
~ nerve damage (n=54).
69 adverse events REQUIRED hospitalization,
~ 5 resulted in PERMANENT INJURY, secondary to nerve damage.
The authors concluded that "to better assess the true risk of adverse events related to prolotherapy, further well-designed clinical trials ... are needed."
Remember, Blood Letting was an accepted, and thought to be effective 'treatment' for centuries, until modern science and a peer reviewed studies proved it was no better than placebo effect, and didn't medically improve or treat anything.