Over the past few years, there has been a lot written about platelet rich plasma (PRP) and its effectiveness in treating and healing injuries. Although the PRP injection is becoming quite popular, it’s still an unfamiliar treatment method to many.
We offer Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections here at our Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna specialty clinics, so we want to provide you with information on what they are, and the reasons, uses, and benefits of this therapy.
Some of you may have questions about PRP therapy, such as:
What is platelet rich plasma?
How does a platelet-rich plasma injection work?
What conditions do PRP injections treat?
Is the treatment effective?
We’ll answer all of these questions and more here.
What is a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy?
To promote your own healing of injured tendons, muscles, ligaments, and joints, a portion of your own blood called protein-rich plasma, or PRP, is injected into your injured area. PRP is plasma that has a high concentration of platelets (more than blood), which is rich in growth factor proteins. These protein rich growth factors are helpful in the healing of injuries.
Potential benefits of a PRP injection include:
reduction of bruising and bleeding and bruising
enhanced wound closure
accelerated bone growth
and the stabilization of bone and/or soft tissue
PRP therapy has become a new and exciting branch of sports medicine allowing athletes to recover and heal quicker from injuries of the muscles, tendons, nerves, cartilage and ligaments, as well as help with chronic pain. It's a safe and non-surgical treatment that doesn't involve drug use. The healing agent with PRP injections is your very own blood platelets.
There have been certain laboratory studies that have indicated that the increased PRP growth factor (natural occurring substance that stimulates cellular growth) concentration can potentially help to speed up the healing process.
Although you may think the whole idea behind a platelet-rich plasma injection is fairly simple on the surface, to really understand how straightforward and effective it is, you need to understand the natural repair functions of your body.
You may already know that your platelets of blood can help heal a wound. But, now researchers are learning more about how they do much more than this. What they are finding out is that platelets also are responsible for releasing these growth factors we just discussed that draw your progenitor cells (these are your special regenerative cells) to your injured area. PRP then enhances this progenitor/platelet cell relationship to enhance healing.
Reasons for a Platelet Rich Plasma Injection (PRP)
As mentioned, PRP injections help the natural body healing of your injuries. It actually”heals” the injury, rather than simply “relieve” the symptoms. It may even reduce your need for surgery and medication in some cases.
There are a number of reasons for PRP injections with a few including:
Good Therapy for Athletes
Years ago, physicians were using PRP injections to help heal bones following spinal injury and plastic surgery to recover soft tissues. Now, it is being widely used in the sports arena to treat injured athletes.
Athletes often suffer torn tendons, ligaments, and muscles while participating in sports. Many athletes have used, and are using, PRP therapy to help heal their wounded tissues faster.
Many athletes suffer from some form of tendonitis, like tendonitis in the knee, Achilles tendonitis, or tennis elbow. These types of injuries tear the tendon, form scar tissue, and can become chronic (lifelong). Since there is poor blood supply in the area of the tendon injury, it can be difficult to heal them. Because PRP is rich in growth factors responsible for healing, athletes can recover from their injuries more quickly.
Beneficial for Muscle Regeneration and Reduced Scar Formation for Muscle Injuries
Another reason for PRP therapy involves muscle injuries. These are extremely common in athletes and generally occur when your muscles cross two joints when you increase your exercise regimen and perform sprinting and other explosive physical activities.
These types of injuries can lead to swelling, pain, and loss of motion and strength. In most cases, the athlete is usually able to return to their sports if they only have a partial tear and they no longer have pain and have regained normal motion and strength. This can take anywhere from several weeks to several months with appropriate therapy and treatment.
In some situations, the athlete ends up with scar tissue that forms at the area where they were injured which can leave them vulnerable to another injury at that same area. When they have a complete muscle rupture, they lose their playing time and end up with a substantial functional impairment which can require surgery.
With PRP therapy, the doctor draws blood from the patient (athlete), spins the blood in a centrifuge to form a concentration of the platelets and then injects it into the injured area. The growth factors in the platelets stimulate muscle regeneration and healing and limit scar tissue formation.
Uses of PRP Injections
There are a number of injuries that PRP injections can help with, including:
- Ligament Injuries, such as strains, sprains, medial collateral ligament (bands of tissue inside your knee) injuries and lateral collateral ligament (ligament running outside the joint of your knee) injuries.
- Tendon Injuries, such as Achilles tendon, rotator cuff, quadriceps and patellar tendons, and tennis elbow.
- Muscle Injuries, such as quadriceps, hamstrings, biceps, triceps and calves.
- Cartilage Injuries, such as tears in your hip, shoulder and more, and osteoarthritis ( a type of arthritis with a breakdown of cartilage and your bone wears down).
- Stress fractures, such as overuse injuries and shin splints.
- Knee injuries, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and meniscal tears.
Let's take the Achilles as an example. This tendon has a poor supply of blood generally. Therefore when there is chronic scarring or tears, it can be difficult for your body to heal it. It's thought that your body is unable to obtain enough of the growth or healing factors in that certain area. However, when this area is treated with a PRP injection, it enhances the growth and nutrient factors that enable your body to heal it more quickly.
Benefits of PRP Injections
There are some impressive benefits of PRP injections. Since it speeds up healing and recovery time, athletes are typically most interested so they can get back to their game.
But PRP injections can help anyone because of these benefits:
Heal naturally. Your body heals your injuries itself because it has everything it needs.
Reduce scar formations. No scars are left behind from PRP injections and the growth factors in the platelets limit scar tissue formation.
Are affordable. It's extremely affordable compared to a minimally or open invasive surgery.
Help with quick recovery. Following the procedure, you may gain motion back the next day. It takes around 10 days for inflammation to go away. Many people have seen substantial improvement in as little as four weeks.
Are safe. There are very little risks or complications with the procedure.
Any risks associated with PRP therapy are minimal. You may experience a slight pain where the injection was administered, however, other issues like tissue damage, infection or nerve injuries don't seem to be any different than what is experienced with cortisone injections.
Although a platelet-rich plasma injection is a good option, it's a good idea to wait at least a couple months after other treatments have failed before giving this a go. This is because this procedure can be expensive and some insurance policies don’t cover it.
Also, since this injection is administered with the intention of healing inflammation as well, you should stop any type of anti-inflammatory medications (with the consent of your Soldotna doctor) while receiving this treatment. After your PRP injection, you should wait a short period of time before you exercise or begin any type of rehabilitation exercise program.
Contact us here at Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna at (907) 262-7566 to learn more about how Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections might help with your injury and to book your appointment.