What is Prolotherapy?

I have talked a lot about this treatment, but I haven’t really explained what it is. So, let me give you a handy little definition from Wikipedia:

“Prolotherapy, also called proliferation therapy or regenerative injection therapy is an alternative medicine treatment that uses injection of an irritant solution into ligaments or tendon insertion in an effort to relieve pain.”prolotherapy-3d-anatomy

The irritant solution that they use is often just glucose. It’s nothing harmful or out of the ordinary. It isn’t a chemical based solution. Once the solution is injected into the site, the doctor often gives either a local anesthetic or pain medicine to alleviate some of the pain associated with it. The two days after that are incredibly painful as it kick-starts the inflammation process all over again in order to grow new tissue.

As of late, there have been a lot of advocates against the use of anti-inflammatories as a solution to pain or injury because, what we are learning is that inflammation is actually the beginning of the pain process. When someone sprains an ankle, that inflammation is the body’s healing response to the injury. Western medicine has told us our entire lives that this isn’t good and has pushed the consumption of medications such as ibuprofen and the like. As a result, we cancel out the body’s healing process.

So, this is where prolotherapy comes into the equation. A lot of doctors are now supporting this as an alternative to surgery. It is a controversial technique among practitioners of Western medicine, so a lot of doctors brush it off as some hippie dippy stuff. But, there are a lot of people who have given positive feedback that it is actually working. The tissue that regrows; however, has a different composition than that of the original damaged tissue, so, again, there is a lot of debate about how effective this treatment is.

To get rid of the pain, I am willing to try it.

fig1

I had this done on the left side of my body today, not on both sides.

Consultation & The Beginning

Around May, I ended my therapy with a doctor who practiced a hybrid Korean/Japanese kind of thing. I am not sure how to describe it other than he used mallets. They looked painful but did not feel so. His last suggestion to me was to stretch every day, and to walk often. Little did I know, this was just a temporary solution. Fast-forward to August, and I began talking about pain in my upper back, primarily around the C6-C7 (cervical/neck vertebrae) region as well as my T1-T2 (thoracic/upper back vertebrae) region. It wasn’t your run of the mill muscle soreness. At times, it felt as if someone was pushing a knife into my shoulder blades and neck. I had also been having issues where I wake up in the middle of the night and both arms are completely asleep. This is still going on. So, I asked my husband if we could call our health insurance provider for a suggestion of a place I could go that would be able to take my private insurance.

Insurance in Korea doesn’t work the same as back in the States. Everyone must enroll in government healthcare. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about Obama Care, and well, Obama Care, from what I have read is based on the Korean system or this was a source of inspiration. It’s about fifty or sixty bucks a month, which I think is pretty cheap. This covers basic needs. Not to mention, healthcare is so affordable here. I love being able to go to the doctor for ANYTHING and sometimes only paying around two to four dollars for medicine. I have even paid around $315 for an MRI, which was not covered by insurance.

Now, if you want extra coverage, that’s where private insurance comes into play. There are a lot of options, and you can even find someone who speaks English who can set you up with a plan as well as look into various types of cancer insurance. Chiropractic is covered by insurance, but you have to be careful as it can be tricky when you submit all of your receipts for payout. They often do not pay for those diagnosed with chronic pain. We haven’t done that yet and will do so in about a year, when the treatment is finished. (*fingers crossed that we can get a refund through health insurance*) My husband and I are looking at it as a savings plan because I am looking to get 80 to 90% of what I paid back. Quite surprising isn’t it? Healthcare is great here. Even if I go up to Seoul, I’m still only going to pay a fraction of the cost.

I am getting away from the point, but anyways…we get the name of a doctor that is conveniently near one of my schools, and we go in almost before it closes. The doctor isn’t annoyed in the least bit. He’s more than willing to help me. He efficiently diagnoses my condition and gets an x-ray to confirm it. He then lays out the cost of each visit for me and directs me to the head of physical therapy to set up a reoccurring appointment for physical therapy once a week. So, here I will give a basic breakdown of what one visit could cost. Mind you, prolotherapy injections vary in price depending on the location, but I want to give you an idea of just how much money I am saving by doing this.

Korea:

Consultation Fee: $3.00 (That’s not a typo).

X-Ray: $2.50 (Again, that’s not a typo either).

First Physical Therapy Session (Rolfing Technique): $90.26

UV Light Stimulation: Included in PT cost

Electrical Stimulation Therapy: Included in PT Cost

 

United States:

Consultation Fee: $150 and up

X-Ray: (Without Insurance) $100 – $1000; (With Insurance) $260 – $460

Physical Therapy (Rolfing Technique): $80 – $120

UV Light Stimulation: $25 – $100

Electrical Stimulation Therapy: $132

So, as you can see, the numbers speak for themselves. Even if you cannot get a working visa here, you could come into Korea on a tourist visa and get three months of care for a huge fraction of the cost that it would be in the United States, even without insurance! Later in the week, I will recount my first injection and what to expect as well as some tib bits on my physical therapy. (It is SUPER PAINFUL but worth it.)

Off to Canada (They Go)

Steven and I lived with my sister-in-law and her children for about a year and a half. The circumstances of how we came to live together isn’t fodder for a public forum and pertains to her family; however, we lived together, and it was both good and bad. What I take from the experience is a closeness to family that I haven’t been able to feel in a long time considering that my blood relatives are half a world away. I feel so grateful to have been a part of their family and their life, and we learned so much from each other.

So…on Friday, my sister-in-law, her son and her daughter will leave Korea and make the trek to Canada. They plan to settle in Newfoundland. We knew this was coming, but time sort of crept up on us and now we are on the almost eve of their departure. We are making last minute plans to meet together and transferring her car into my name. The kids and she came over today to try to set up car insurance, but that is so difficult here, even for her. I watched the kids play with Ace our dog. The little thing loves them so much, and he whined for twenty minutes after they left.

I will miss Heechan and Yesan. I am not sure if I can ever have children of my own (that may take a possible miracle), but to be a part of their lives has been a privilege. I watched their mom move down here with us; get a job; and provide for them all the while depending on us (mostly Steven) to help with school and taking them places, but she mostly did it on her own without much help from us, and I think to myself that it is so hard for a single mom. How do they do it? God only knows. Hats off to moms both single and married. You’re rock stars in my book. I look at you from afar with a tinge of envy.

What I got out of all of this was a bigger family. (To be accepted by Steven’s family as I have has been really nice and less stressful than many of the stories I hear of in-laws from hell.) Steven’s sister and the kids will be half a world away also, but they are there, present. I learned so much about how to cook Korean food and about Korean culture from living all together with them. Of course I have lived here for six years, but it’s so different once you become integrated and married into a family here, and it isn’t terribly easy to merge two different cultures together in a marriage. She and I figured out our own way to communicate, and in a way, she was my ally and has greatly helped me understand my husband. (They have been almost inseparable since childhood.)

It has hit me in waves…the finality of things. Tonight, I cried because I won’t be able to see them off at the airport on Friday, but I hope that they can only know how much they do mean to me. Through the peaks and the valleys, we had a merging of West meets East, and it was a wonderful thing. I taught her how to make cobbler. She taught me how to make seaweed soup among so many other things. When I was feeling sick, she treated me with an ancient remedy to alleviate nausea.

In some coming blog posts, I hope to share some of our past experiences. I met the kids when they were around three or four, and now one will be in second grade, and the other will be in third grade when they get to Canada. I can only wish them the best. They are frantically packing, and tomorrow night I, Steven’s brother, Steven’s father, my other sister-in-law and baby niece will have a party to wish them the best for this next chapter of their lives.