Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP): What You Need to Know
What is PRP and how does it work?
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a regenerative medicine treatment that uses the body's own healing factors to promote healing and tissue repair. PRP is made by drawing a small sample of blood from the patient, spinning it down in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from the other blood cells, and then injecting the platelet-rich plasma back into the patient's area of complaint.
Platelets are a type of blood cell that plays a vital role in healing. They contain growth factors and other proteins that can help to stimulate new tissue growth. PRP injections are thought to work by delivering a high concentration of growth-factor-rich platelets to the injured area, which can help to accelerate and improve the healing process.
PRP injections are used to treat a variety of conditions, including:
- Sports injuries
- Joint pain and arthritis
- Tendonitis and bursitis
- Hair loss
- Skin rejuvenation
The most common joint injections
The most widely used and commonly known treatment for joint pain is likely corticosteroid injections. While they are good for rapid pain relief, they are well-known to be short-lived, providing relief for a few months. That is assuming they work at all. Many times, corticosteroids do not provide any relief at all.
The main problem with coriticosteroid injections is that the provider will usually only perform a series of the injections due to the risk of damage to the joint structures in the region of the injections. The damage can include:
- Infection at the injection site
- Tendon weakening or rupture
- Cartilage damage
- Bone death
- Thinning of the skin and soft tissues around the injection site
- Whitening or lightening of the skin around the injection site
- Fluid retention
- High blood pressure
- Elevated blood sugar levels
PRP, on the other hand comes from the patient so the risk of adverse effects is greatly reduced rendering it mostly safe with few to zero adverse effects at all.
What's the word on PRP?
The evidence on the effectiveness of PRP therapy varies depending on the condition being treated. For example, there is STRONG evidence that PRP injections can be effective in treating sports injuries such as muscle strains and ligament tears.
Here is a summary of the evidence on the effectiveness of PRP therapy for some of the most common conditions it is used to treat:
- Sports injuries: PRP injections have been shown to be effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with sports injuries such as muscle strains, ligament tears, and tendonitis. For example, a study published in the journal Orthopedics & Sports Physical Therapy found that PRP injections were more effective than placebo injections in reducing pain and improving function in patients with chronic Achilles tendinitis.
- Joint pain and arthritis: PRP injections have been shown to be effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with joint pain and arthritis, including knee osteoarthritis and shoulder arthritis.
- Hair loss: PRP injections have been shown to be effective in promoting hair growth in patients with androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness). However, the results of studies on the effectiveness of PRP injections for hair loss have been mixed.
- Skin rejuvenation: PRP injections have been shown to be effective in improving the appearance of aging skin. For example, a study published in the journal Dermatology and Therapy found that PRP injections were effective in reducing wrinkles and improving skin texture in patients with aging skin.
LA Orthopaedic Specialists has this to say; "Cortisone shots usually kick in within one week. The pain relief can last a couple of months or longer. Regarding PRP therapy, it does help speed healing by flooding the injured area with additional resources, but it still takes time for the natural processes to play out. Most people start to see an improvement within 6-8 weeks. Unlike a cortisone shot, though, the effects of PRP therapy shouldn’t wear off, because this treatment helps heal the injury. Because PRP therapy comes with fewer risks, helps boost healing, and can provide more permanent pain relief, we often recommend it over cortisone shots for overuse injuries."
A recent research project proved, "(PRP treatment) shows significantly superior and sustained pain-relieving and functional improvements compared with corticosteroid intratendinous injections...."
Another study showed, "Corticosteroid injections provide rapid therapeutic effect in the short-term with recurrence of symptoms afterwards, compared to the relatively slower but longer-term effect of platelet-rich plasma." Remember, corticosteroids can be detrimental to the joint structures. For us, PRP is the superior option with regard to risk management.
This study proved, "PRP demonstrated a statistically significant improvement over corticosteroids in a 1-year follow-up."
Is PRP therapy right for you?
PRP therapy is not right for everyone. It is important to talk to your doctor to see if PRP therapy is a good option for you. Your doctor will consider your medical history, the condition you are trying to treat, and the potential risks and benefits of PRP therapy before making a recommendation.
PRP therapy is a promising new treatment that has the potential to treat a variety of conditions safely and effectively. If you are considering PRP therapy, it is important to talk to your doctor to see if it is the right option for you. If you are in the Amarillo, TX or Texas Panhandle region and looking to get started with PRP therapy, give us a call at 806-355-3000. Let us help you get better, faster.