Healing After Joint Injury: How PRP Injections Work

prp vancouver - stein medical logo

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)

For pain management and improved joint stability

  • 777 Hornby St. Vancouver, BC
  • (604) 637-8777

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.

Think PRP may be for you? Learn more about how PRP injections work here, or book your first appointment with Dr. Meli now!

References:

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

Comments 8

  1. I am interested in PRP for knee issues but would like to know more re:
    Number of visits required to clinic?
    How is patient first assessed? What history is required?
    How does one determine if more than one treatment is needed?
    What exactly does the $550 fee include?
    What followup is done and for how long after?
    How is success defined?
    Is PRP more effective if done sooner than later?
    How long after a knee injury is too long?
    Thx!

  2. I am old in my seventies and having knee pain for a while.
    How long will it take to get appointment?
    How much does it cost to have PRP?
    Have you treated old people with knee pains?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Midori, sorry for the late reply. Appointments are available on Wednesdays are you can usually book an appointment within a couple weeks. Cost is $600 per treatment. I treat knee pain all day long! Young or old doesn’t matter, except that sometimes the elderly population responds a little slower to PRP treatments. If the pain is caused by osteoarthritis, there is a good chance PRP will help you. If you have other questions, feel free to contact the clinic. -Dr. Meli.

  3. I’m 60 years old and started having only right hip pain around 3 years ago, especially bending over. Do you use ultra sound to make PRP injection? What does the $600 treatment cost include? Please advise. Thanks!
    Jaron

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Jaron, sorry for the late reply. The $600 fee encompasses everything: consultation, physical assessment, blood draw/PRP preparation and treatment. An additional small fee is charged is multiple joints or body regions are treated. Ultrasound guidance is not used in our office. We get excellent results without the need for U/S. There are only a couple areas that we would refer to another doctor who use U/S. Hip pain does not usually require an ultrasound.

  4. Typically how many treatments of PRP are required to treat pain in one joint? (in this case a wrist) and what is the frequency of treatments? Thank you.

    1. Thanks for the question. TFCC tears typically respond very well, requiring 2-3 treatments. If multiple ligaments are involved, it would depend on the severity of the instability in the wrist. After assessing I would be able to give you a more accurate estimate. Treatment frequency is every 3-4 weeks until resolution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *