Oxygen earned the moniker “breath of life” for a reason: The air we breathe gives us existence. First used in the medical field in 1810, its ability to facilitate health is making a resurgence, primarily in the form of oxygen therapies.

As a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist with 26 years of experience under my belt and with a sub-specialty in sports medicine, I’ve seen countless patients arrive at my center with both acute and chronic pain. Always on the lookout for the most cutting-edge, efficient treatments, I began prescribing a form of oxygen therapy called Prolozone last year—and have seen dramatic results in my patients ever since.

Prolozone therapy calls upon the breath of life (oxygen, O2) and infuses it with an extra electron (ozone, O3). This is then injected into soft tissues and joints, where it holds the possibility of enhancing oxygen utilization in the local tissue.

Why does oxygen make a difference? People in pain—or when experiencing stiffness—typically have a decreased blood flow to their affected area(s), and therefore a decreased amount of oxygen reaches those tissues. This, in turn, results in a decrease in energy production in the cells in that area, thereby delaying healing and contributing to the very pain and stiffness they’re experiencing. Injecting ozone—which converts to oxygen and water upon insertion—increases mitochondrial function inside the cell, which will produce more energy (ATP). This rouses a cascade of cellular responses, chiefly decreased inflammation and accelerated healing of the affected area.

What’s more, ozone therapy supports the stimulation of stem cells (cells that can turn into the tissues that are required for wound healing, cartilage repair, and ligament and tendon rejuvenation), ultimately boosting local healing and the remodeling of tissues. Ozone therapy further bolsters the production of antioxidant enzymes, which also aid in reducing inflammation.

In sum, by delivering oxygen to inactive and inflamed tissues, cells upregulate their healing mechanisms and pain is resolved—safely. As researchers wrote in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, the effects of ozone therapy are “proven, consistent, safe and with minimal and preventable side effects.”

Ozone Therapy Success Stories

A number of patients I’ve treated with ozone therapy have seen radical results. For example…

* Shortness of breath and inability to talk. At 63-years-old, the last thing “Jill” wanted to hear was that she needed neck surgery to correct a subluxation in her cervical spine (meaning, a joint in her neck was out of alignment). Her symptoms were varied and distressing, dominated by a frequent inability to talk and a feeling of shortness of breath (the latter she was somewhat used to, given that she had a history of asthma). When stressed, these symptoms were exacerbated—which only led to more shortness of breath and the increased anxiety that arrived with it. Add the recommendation of surgery to her list, and she arrived at my center frazzled and distraught.

The physical exam I conducted on Jill revealed that the soft tissues, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia in her shoulders and upper back were full of knots. While I admitted that I wasn’t certain if ozone treatments would make a difference in the subluxation, she insisted we try. I treated her once a week for six weeks through injecting her “trigger points” with an anesthetic called procaine combined with a small amount of glucose (which offers nutrition to cells) and B vitamins. To this I added a small amount of ozone. While the injections were slightly painful, only scantly so; as Jill put it, it felt only a “bit stronger” than acupuncture. (The most uncomfortable part of the treatment occurs if/when the ozone goes outside of the procaine-treated area, but the discomfort tends to abate within a minute.)

The results were extraordinary. Jill had nearly complete resolution of her issues, which only cropped up months later when she was under substantial stress.

How did this work? When soft tissues are tight they can pull bones out of place. By releasing the trigger points and the fascial adhesions Jill had built up over years, her cervical vertebrae shifted—so much so that it was no longer pressing on nerve roots that innervated her throat. She has had a few “tune-up” treatments in the last four months, but other than that has remained symptom-free. Most notably, she no longer needs surgery.

And how do I know that oxygen is the game changer here? I have used just the procaine, glucose, and other nutrients to inject into trigger points in the past in patients and never got responses like I have from the addition of ozone. The other ingredients in the solution are important for a number of reasons but, again, the addition of ozone resulted in profound benefits in releasing soft tissue pain and tension and resolving joint pain. 

* Intense, chronic hip pain. Diagnosed with hip dysplasia (a congenital hip deformity), “Karen,” a 48-year-old mother of two, was experiencing early-onset osteoarthritis in the affected area. Her doctor informed her that she would need to have a hip replacement sooner rather than later. But at her age, Karen wanted to try everything she could to treat her hip before going under the knife.

Karen was having tremendous difficulty walking without pain and discomfort. It had gotten so severe she could no longer sleep well, and her primary care doctor’s recommendation—to take ibuprofen daily and engage in physical therapy—bypassed truly treating the underlying cause of her suffering. Besides, the physical therapy she’d tried in the past didn’t provide much benefit, while NSAIDs in general gave her stomach pain. (When used long-term, NSAIDs are notorious for causing gastritis and stomach ulcers. Not only should continual use be avoided, but they also aren’t a solution.)

I recommended that she try a series of Prolozone treatments. Like Jill, I treated her hip with a combination of procaine and nutrients, and then injected ozone into her hip joint and to trigger points around her joint and lower back.

Karen’s response to the first treatment was nothing short of dramatic. I have since treated her hip three times, two weeks apart. She’s had a significant reduction in pain and discomfort, and a profound increase in the quality of her life—even, to her delight, being able to return to the gym. What’s more, a hip replacement is no longer on the table.

I have done prolotherapy for the last eight years in my practice and had good results but the addition of ozone took the benefits to an exponential level. As with Karen’s turnaround, my patients are getting better faster and with fewer treatments.

* Osteoarthritic knee. When “Ellen,” a 65-year-old real estate agent, first arrived at my office, she requested PRP (platelet-rich plasma) treatment for her osteoarthritic knee. By that point, she, too, was in incredible distress: She couldn’t walk more than a block without her knee locking up and experiencing searing pain directly behind her knee (in the “indentation” called the popliteal fossa). In addition, she’d already had a knee replacement on her left knee and, as she said, “didn’t want to sign up for another one.” While I empathized, I urged her to try Prolozone instead. Not only was it more cost-effective than PRP, but I was also convinced it would successfully treat her joint pain.

After two intraarticular injections (in which the solution is inserted into the knee joint), she was sore for a good two days. A few days after that, she no longer had pain while walking. We repeated the treatment three weeks later, and she’s been symptom-free ever since.

These are just three examples from a pool of many. In the relatively short time that I’ve been administering Prolozone therapy, I’ve seen patients regain the full motion of their shoulders after being diagnosed with adhesive capsulitis…walk with more ease than they have in years…and regain the ability to sleep solidly after finding relief from joint pain. Breath of life, indeed.

What About the Cost?

What you’ll pay for ozone injection therapy depends on the practitioner and the number of areas being treated. I have a cash practice and do not bill insurance but I doubt that insurance would cover these treatments. My fees depend on what I’m treating and the number of joints or areas of the body I’m treating in the same visit. My average patient spends $225 per treatment, but the range is typically between $155 and $325.

If you are interested in exploring ozone therapy for yourself, you can find a practitioner near you through the American Academy of Ozone Therapy.

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