Dr. Dean

Are Sugar-Water Shots The Right Treatment For Numbness In the Legs?

Posting Date: 11/03/2000

Joyce: My husband had a back injury nine months ago. The doctors' treatment plan is for ten months of injections of sugar water in his back and prescriptions for narcotics.

He is still in pain and his legs are going numb, and the doctors say nothing is wrong. I'm extremely concerned that nothing is being done to help him.

Dr. Dean: Numbness in the legs can become permanent. This is cause for immediate action.

The sugar-water injection treatment is called prolotherapy. It has some legitimacy, but not all back doctors accept it.

The very high concentration of sugar water is believed to relieve pain because its toxicity to tissue causes the tissue to scar and contract.

But in his condition, your husband is in desperate need of a second opinion. You have a right to his medical records and x-rays. You've got to take these to another orthopedist for a consultation even if you have to pay for it yourselves.

Numbness has patterns of distribution like a watershed, like rivers flow in patterns through the mountains. The patterns give information about the cause of the numbness. For example, numbness in only the hands and feet --what's called stocking-glove distribution -- is not due to nerve damage, because no nerve covers just these areas. The distribution of numbness may be influencing your husband's doctors in their choice of treatment.

However, when someone legs go numb, you can't afford to play wait-and-see any longer.