Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is an increasingly popular treatment that helps a variety of conditions, including the treatment of injuries. Using blood cells from our bodies, we can add extra platelets to damaged areas, which speeds up the recovery process.
How does it work? What is platelet-rich plasma? What should a patient expect when going through PRP therapy? Is this treatment reliable?
Here is our guide to give you a better understanding of PRP therapy and how it can help you recover from your injury.
What is Platelet Rich Plasma?
It is important to understand what platelets are. An entry from the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Health Encyclopedia defines platelets as: “tiny blood cells that help your body form clots to stop bleeding.”
Platelets also have growth factors or proteins that can help promote the healing of injuries. The idea is that injecting a large concentration of platelets into a damaged area will accelerate the healing process.
- How does PRP work?
To begin the process, a medical professional will draw a blood sample from the patient. Using a specialized machine called a centrifuge, they separate the platelets from the rest of the blood components such as the red blood cells. At this point, the blood’s concentration of platelets is somewhere between 5 and 10 times greater than a typical blood sample.
The medical professional then uses this platelet-rich plasma to help the patient on their way to a speedy recovery. There are two primary ways methods of use:
- Injection: Injected PRP is a common way of dealing with localized injuries. When injecting, using imaging technology is extremely important to ensure that the patient receives the PRP where they need it. For instance, let’s say a patient is recovering from a severe muscle injury in their arm. The medical practitioner will locate the exact location, draw blood, run that through centrifugation, and inject it into the muscle tissue to aid the body in its recovery.
- Surgery: A more recent development in PRP therapy is its use during surgery, particularly to repair a soft tissue injury. For example you tear your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and need surgery. The recovery from an ACL tear can last longer than a year depending on the severity of the tear, so using PRP may speed up the tissue repair process. Instead of injections, you can actually have PRP integrated into the torn tissues during surgery. This will help the tissues heal at a faster rate. There has also been some experimentation with using PRP during surgeries for broken bones, but no conclusions have been made about its effectiveness.
- What should I expect?
While research studies have yet to find conclusive evidence that PRP works, there have been enough success stories to validate the method. When faced with difficult sports injuries, athlete Tiger Woods has even taken advantage of PRP injections to aid his recovery.
Receiving PRP is not like taking a magical pill that heals your injury, but it will speed your recovery. The benefits far outweigh the cost and the few side effects there are.
There are no known negative repercussions of PRP therapy that are severe. The fact that the therapy simply pumps your own filtered blood back into your body means that there is little risk of infection or your body’s immune system deciding that a foreign substance is harmful. Some potential, mild effects do include:
- Pain and swelling in the injured area: This is nothing to worry about, especially since the areas PRP therapy targets will already be feeling significant pain. Whether it be from a surgery or a soft tissue injury, the pain is typically already present. Usually, the pain and swelling from PRP will last somewhere between three and five days.
- Mild nausea: This is not particularly common and should not last long.
- Blood clots: This is another rare side effect. With an exceptionally high dose of platelets, which form blood clots as their primary function, the treatment could actually cause a blood clot to form where you do not need one.
- Is PRP therapy for me?
If you are interested in PRP for any of the following, then you should consider using PRP therapy.
- Sports injuries: This is one of the most common uses of PRP therapy. Sports usually require you to perform a myriad of movements that are quick, unpredictable, repetitive, and dangerous. As a result, soft tissue injuries, which affect the tendons, ligaments, and/or muscles are common. If you are dealing with a sports-related soft tissue injury, you should consider PRP Therapy as a way to accelerate your recovery process.
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes significant pain and swelling, particularly around the joints. Doctors have used PRP therapy as a way of reducing that swelling, and pain as well.
- Plastic surgery: Another use of PRP therapy is during plastic surgery. Just as with the ACL surgery mentioned above, PRP would be used during the surgery process instead of being injected afterwards. For plastic surgery, PRP would help regenerate tissues and reduce swelling.
- Hair growth: Some doctors have injected PRP into the head, reducing the swelling that can prohibit hair growth.
Platelet Rich Plasma
Each pain therapy treats specific or generic pain conditions and symptoms. For instance, bioelectric therapy is used to treat both acute and chronic pain conditions including complex regional pain syndrome, back pain, muscle pain, headaches, migraines, arthritis, temporomandibular joint syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, neuropathic pain and pain caused by poor circulation. On the other hand, electrothermal therapies are commonly used to treat chronic low back pain and other spinal disc-related pain.
Alternative therapy are helpful in providing pain relief for various pain symptoms. This includes neck pain, cancer pain, back pain, whiplash, headache, migraine, fibromyalgia and many others.
What is the timetable for platelet-rich plasma therapy?
The entire process for PRP therapy is quick. For injections, it is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning that you do not need to visit a hospital. Instead, you can visit Arizona Pain and Spine Institute to receive your treatment.
The actual procedure—from the drawing of the blood to the injection of the PRP takes about an hour. You will probably experience pain and swelling in the injection area for a few days after the procedure, but your pain will not be different than the pain you felt prior to the injection. It is common for someone to receive multiple injections as well.
Since research has not been able to undeniably verify PRP’s effectiveness, most medical insurance companies do not cover the treatment. However, at Arizona Pain and Spine Institute, we have seen firsthand the that the treatment can help speed the recovery process for a number of conditions.
If you are suffering in pain, platelet-rich plasma therapy may accelerate your recovery process. Schedule an appointment at Arizona Pain and Spine Institute today. Our passionate team wants to help you recover and live pain free!