Rebuilding Collagen: The Key to Prolotherapy
What is Collagen?
Our bones and muscles are held together by the aptly named connective tissue. Connective tissues are ligaments, which connect bone to bone, and tendons, which connect the bones to muscles. It is also the fascia covering muscles and the joint capsule tissue.
Ligaments and tendons are made of collagen. When the ligaments and tendons are injured, the body produces collagen to heal them. The problem with ligaments and tendons is that the body offers them a poor blood supply and, because of it, a poor chance to completely heal.
The poor supply of blood to the ligaments and tendons is very apparent from their white color. Muscles on the other hand are red because they have a very good blood supply. Ligaments and tendons therefore are prone to not heal completely from injury, because their limited blood supply does not offer, among other things, the supplies necessary to rebuild collagen.
Collagen and Degenerative Disc Disease, Collagen and Degenerative Joint Disease
Most are familiar with collagen because of its cosmetic benefits. Skin is held together by collagen and young skin has plenty of it, making it smooth and wrinkle-free. As we age, the quality and quantity of collagen diminishes and breaks down. Years of sun exposure, facial movement, and gravity aggravate the signs of age. Wrinkles and creases appear; the cheeks are not as full; and the upper lip usually thins out.
Just as the collagen in our face deteriorates, so does the collagen in other parts of our body. This includes the ligaments and tendons in, and around, our joints. Where loss of collagen in our face is signified by wrinkles, in our joints it is signified by pain and a diagnosis of degenerative joint disease or Degenerative Disc Disease.
The key to Prolotherapy is its ability to stimulate the growth of collagen and therefore, the growth of new ligament and tendon tissue. Grow stronger ligaments and tendons and you repair the injury and reverse the degenerative cycle of arthritis and wear and tear disorders.
A Profile of Collagen
Collagen makes up 70-90% of the stuff that holds our bones and joints together and in their proper place. Some older readers may remember that old horses were often sent to the “glue factory.” The reason is that boiled collagen is used as glue.
In degenerative disease and aging, collagen, like glue, dries out and loses its ability to stretch. Why this happens more in some individuals than others is speculation at this time. There are many theories including, but not limited to, poor genetic makeup, blood type with its specific dietary requirements, viral or bacterial load, pathological conditions, acidity in the body, and food allergies, to name a few.
But just as collagen can rejuvenate damaged skin to make you look better, collagen can rejuvenate your soft tissues to help eliminate your pain.
Collagen and Joint Injuries
In non-injured ligaments or tendons, collagen fibers are flexible and have some elasticity. Elastic as they are, they are not supposed to stretch very far. Injuries occur when we stretch these fibers beyond their designed lengths. Injuries also occur when wear and tear through repetitive motion fray and tear at these fibers.
When these tissues are stretched beyond their normal limits, wear out, or tear, pain is perceived.
Inflammation produces pain, which is a sign the body’s healing process is occurring. So initially, inflammation occurs as the body tries to heal the damage. Since the tendons and ligaments have a poor and limited blood supply, it is important not to shut down the initial inflammatory response (as you will read in the following chapter on painkillers and anti-inflammatories.) Shutting down the inflammation is equivalent to shutting down the healing cycle and YOU prevent yourself from healing correctly.