What is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)?
PRP (aka Regenerative Injection Therapy) is a promising new procedure for the treatment of tendon, ligament, and joint injuries. Injured tendons, ligaments, and joints cause pain and keep us from doing both the activities we love to do, and normal, everyday movements. Until recently, the only viable options for treating longstanding injuries were prolonged rest, strength training or physical therapy, and surgery. Now, with the use of your own blood sample and a specialized centrifuge, we are able to reinvigorate your body’s own healing capabilities to help restore you to health properly.
How Does PRP Therapy Work?
To prepare the Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) sample, a small amount of your blood is taken from your arm vein. The blood is then placed in a specialized centrifuge designed to concentrate your platelets. Platelets are cells that house the body’s growth factors, and the centrifuge process increases the concentration of you platelets and growth factors by 800%. When PRP is injected into the damaged area, it stimulates an inflammatory cascade. The inflammatory, or healing process, promotes new collagen or cartilage formation resulting in a thicker, stronger tendon or ligament. As the soft tissue injury heals, the pain diminishes. The healing process typically takes 4-6 weeks, but the process can continue for 3-6 months.
Why Are Platelets Important?
Platelets, which are produced in the bone marrow, contain high concentrations of growth factors and other bioactive proteins that initiate and accelerate tissue repair and regeneration. The PRP injection process is able to concentrate these growth factors and bioactive proteins to a significantly higher degree than the body can on its own. In fact, most injuries occur where the blood supply is poor. The injected platelets are, thus, able to stimulate the healing cascade and begin to repair the damaged or degenerated area.
Are Cortisone Shots The Same?
More and more current clinical studies have demonstrated that cortisone injections may actually weaken tissue and promote further tissue degeneration.Cortisone shots may provide temporary relief and stop inflammation, but may not provide long term healing. PRP therapy heals ligaments and tendons by increasing their strength and thickness up to 40% in some cases.
How PRP injections are performed?
PRP injections are performed in our medical office. Once a sample of blood is drawn from the patient’s arm, it is placed in a specialized centrifuge. The centrifuged sample is comprised of concentrated platelets. Platelets are cells that help to clot blood and heal wounds. Platelets contain healing proteins and growth factors that aid in repairing injured joints, tendons and ligaments. Most PRP injections are given using ultrasound guidance. Ultrasound allows visualization of the needle to ensure proper placement of the PRP solution.
What Are The Potential Benefits?
PRP therapy may be an exceptionally effective treatment option to rid yourself of a nagging, painful injury. Patients can see a significant improvement in symptoms, as well as a remarkable return to pain-free activity in a matter of weeks. This may eliminate the need for surgical repair or ongoing use of pain medications. The sugar solution that is used will not affect your blood sugar levels, so if you are diabetic you will not need to make adjustments to the medications used to treat your diabetes.
What Injuries Can Be Treated?
PRP injections can be performed on tendons, ligaments, and joints all over the body. Arthritic joints and sports injuries including tennis elbow, shin splints, rotator cuff problems, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonopathy, iliotibial band syndrome, knee sprains, hamstring and hip adductor tendonopathies, and many other soft tissue injuries may all be effectively treated with PRP.
How Many Treatments Are Necessary?
While response to treatment vary, most people will require anywhere from a single injection to 3 or more injections to complete the healing process. Each injection is spaced approximately 4 to 6 weeks apart. There is no limit to the number of treatments you can have, and the risks and side effects do not change with the number of injections.
Is PRP Right For Me?
If you have a tendon, ligament, or joint injury that has not healed with relative rest, strengthening, and therapy, then PRP therapy may be the solution. The procedure is much less aggressive and much less expensive than surgery. It will heal tissue with minimal to no scarring, and alleviate further degeneration of the tissues. There will be an initial evaluation to see if PRP therapy is right for you.
What happens after the injection?
After PRP has been properly injected, the patient should nurture the injected area and care for it as a fresh injury. Post-injection rest of the injected area for 1-2 weeks aids in the healing process. Applied heat and ice and oral Acetaminophen can be used to calm the pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories should be avoided as these medications can halt the healing process. A course of physical therapy beginning 2-3 weeks after the injection is recommended to aid in strengthening and stabilizing the injected joint, tendon or ligament.