Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
For pain management and improved joint stability
Healing After Joint Injury: How PRP Injections Work
If you’ve ever experienced joint pain or injury, you know just how frustrating it can be. You may be managing the pain with medications that are not getting to the root of the problem (and that often come with side effects), you may have tried to rest the injury away but are still experiencing pain months later, or you may have undergone therapy after therapy without achieving the results you need to return to your normal life. Depending on the severity of the pain, you may have found yourself unable to return to the sports, activities, or life that you remember, or you may be powering through or playing through the pain and discomfort. But without properly addressing the injury or cause of the pain, the pain will continue, and may eventually get worse.
In recent years, a number of athletes– including pros like Tiger Woods– have turned to a natural, regenerative therapy called PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) for faster, more effective, and longer lasting recovery from pain and injury. PRP can be used for joint and tendon injuries of all kinds, and is especially effective for chronic pain in these areas.
How PRP Injections Work
Our bodies have all kinds of internal strategies and mechanisms for healing from within. Platelet-Rich Plasma– or PRP– is a natural therapy that essentially harnesses our internal ability to recover and enhances it.
Our blood is made up of a liquid component (plasma) and a few solid components (including platelets). Found within these platelets are proteins and molecules called growth factors. These molecules play an important role in our natural recovery process by signaling the body to begin healing.
This process occurs naturally within the body. But not all parts of the body have the same access to it: our joints receive less blood flow than other parts of the body— and therefore fewer growth factors signaling the area to heal– which causes them to heal more slowly. With PRP therapy, we are collecting the growth factor-containing platelets from a patient’s own blood, developing a more concentrated solution, and injecting it directly into the injury site, stimulating and accelerating the healing process.
What is a PRP Treatment Like?
To begin with, a blood sample is taken from the patient. This is similar to drawing blood for a routine blood test. Through a process called centrifugation, platelets are separated from other components, and their concentration is increased, creating a plasma solution that is now 5-10x richer in platelets.
The platelet-rich plasma is then injected by a qualified practitioner directly into the site of injury. The entire treatment takes approximately an hour, with the injection itself taking only about 5 minutes. PRP is generally not painful. Level of discomfort depends on a few factors including the area and severity of the injury, however, every effort is made by the practitioner to make the treatment comfortable. Local anaesthetic may be used to significantly reduce pain in the area during the treatment.
Many patients see improvements and pain reduction after only one PRP treatment. Generally, a series of monthly treatments is recommended. Following a treatment, patients are advised to rest the area for 1-3 days, and then begin moving and exercising the joint.
Research is ongoing with respect to the effectiveness of PRP therapy. Studies into knee, elbow, hip, wrist, shoulder, and ankle injuries have found improvements in pain and function with PRP therapy, and ultrasound and MRI results have confirmed tissue repair following the process. The risks and possible side effects of PRP therapy are minimal, especially when compared with the alternatives. Bruising or temporary pain at the site of the injection are possible.
PRP therapy may be right for you if…
-You’ve suffered an injury to a tendon, ligament, or joint
-You’ve been experiencing pain for 3 months or longer
-You suffer from osteoarthritis
-The treatments you’ve tried so far have not seemed to help
-You want to recover and return to your sports/activities/life sooner rather than later
-You prefer natural therapies that offer complete, long-lasting healing to medications that simply mask the pain
What’s crucial to understand about what makes PRP therapy so effective is that it targets the root cause of the pain, allowing us to heal not only more quickly and more naturally but more completely. Chronic pain is often caused by an injury that has never fully healed, often because we’ve treated the injury with medications that simply target the pain without ever addressing the cause.
Kon, E., Buda, R., Filardo, G., Martino, A. D., Timoncini, A., Cenacchi, A., . . . Marcacci, M. (2009). Platelet-rich plasma: Intra-articular knee injections produced favorable results on degenerative cartilage lesions. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy, 18(4), 472-479. doi:10.1007/s00167-009-0940-8
Spaková, Tímea PhD; Rosocha, Ján DVM, PhD; Lacko, Marek MD; Harvanová, Denisa PhD; Gharaibeh, Ahmed MD. (2012). Treatment of Knee Joint Osteoarthritis with Autologous Platelet-Rich Plasma in Comparison with Hyaluronic Acid. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 91(5), 411-417. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e3182aab72
Mishra, A., & Pavelko, T. (2006). Treatment of Chronic Elbow Tendinosis with Buffered Platelet-Rich Plasma. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(11), 1774-1778. doi:10.1177/0363546506288850