What is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)?

PLATELET RICH PLASMA (PRP)

Platelet Rich Plasma therapy (PRP) is a revolutionary, non-surgical treatment option that relieves pain by promoting natural, long-lasting healing of musculoskeletal conditions. PRP has recently risen in popularity among professional athletes, recreational athletes, and highly functional individuals. PRP injections, especially for athletic injuries, allow patients to return to their regular activities and competition with little to no pain. As a rapidly emerging technique, PRP shows promise for many conditions such as arthritis, tendonitis, and ligament sprains and tears

PRP therapy is offered at our stem cell center in Charlotte and offers patients a long-lasting, permanent solution through the body’s natural healing process. PRP does not wear off over time as traditional pain injections do.

WHAT IS PRP (PLATELET RICH PLASMA)?

PRP is the patient’s own blood that is spun and separated to produce an above normal concentration of platelets. Platelets are clotting cells that also demonstrate significant potential in enhancing healing of muscle, tendon, and ligaments. Studies suggest that the growth factors from platelets recruit reparative cells, may improve tissue repair, and speed the healing of soft tissues.

PRP has been used in surgeries for shoulder rotator cuff and Achilles tendon repair and in injections for chronically injured tendons that have not healed properly. Many clinical trials are examining the full spectrum of PRP uses. In a spine practice, clinicians have noted promising results when PRP injections are used for spinal ligaments, facet joints, and/or intervertebral discs after traditional treatments have failed.

THE SCIENCE OF PRP

Our blood is 93% red blood cells, 6% white blood cells, 1% platelets and plasma. Platelets are best known for their blood-clotting ability to stop bleeding, but they are also a critical component in injury healing. 

Platelets are naturally rich in connective tissue growth and healing factors. When a tissue injury occurs, the body’s first response is to deliver platelets to the injured area. Platelets start the repair process and attract stem cells to the area. By injecting these growth factors directly into the damaged ligaments, tendons, and joints, the body’s natural repair system is stimulated. 

For optimal healing, platelets must be concentrated and separated from the red blood cells. PRP involves a solution that maximizes the number of platelets and minimizes red blood cells. This solution then is injected into the injured area. PRP creates, stimulates, and accelerates the body’s natural healing process, and is an available treatment at our stem cell center.

WHICH CONDITIONS BENEFIT MOST FROM PRP?

PRP treatment effectively treats chronic ligament and tendon sprains/strains, especially those that failed to find success with other treatments. Possible conditions may include:

  • Rotator cuff injuries, including partial-thickness
  • Shoulder pain and instability
  • Tennis and golfer’s elbow
  • Hamstring and hip strains
  • Knee sprains and instability
  • Patellofemoral syndrome and patellar tendonitis
  • Ankle sprains
  • Achilles tendonitis & plantar fasciitis
  • Knee, hip, and other joint osteoarthritis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Additionally, PRP effectively treats many cases of osteoarthritis by stimulating healing of cartilage and reducing pain and disability. This includes:

  • Knee arthritis
  • Hip joint arthritis
  • Shoulder arthritis
  • Ankle arthritis

WILL PRP TREATMENT HELP ME AVOID SURGERY?

With any treatment, the outcome and results depend on the patient and the extent of the injury. For example, when used for mild arthritis, PRP may prevent further degeneration. However, for advanced arthritic degeneration, the goal would be to minimize pain and improve function. PRP (potentially if used in tandem with the use of stem cells) could help patients avoid surgical procedures such as joint replacements and potentially spinal fusion.

HOW IS PRP CREATED?

Creating PRP is a simple, painless, and convenient process. The entire process from drawing blood to preparing the solution is done in the office in as little as 25-30 minutes. A small amount of blood is drawn, similar to a routine blood draw. The blood is then placed into a centrifuge and spun at high speeds. This separates the blood into red blood cells and concentrated platelets. The red blood cells are discarded leaving the concentrated PRP for the treatment.

HOW ARE THE PRP INJECTIONS ADMINISTERED? ARE THE INJECTIONS PAINFUL?

The entire injection appointment time takes less than an hour; this includes creating the PRP as explained above. The PRP is collected and then injected into the injured tendon, ligament, muscle, joint, or disc that is the source of pain and is not healing appropriately. Ultrasound-guidance may be utilized to inject PRP into the appropriate tendon, ligament, or joint. Image guidance helps to ensure precise placement of PRP. The number of injections needed varies, but two to six injections done over time is typical. After the first or second PRP injection, patients usually experience a significant reduction in pain.

For the most part, PRP injections are not painful; however, the discomfort level depends on the patient and the treatment area. Injections into the joint cause minimal discomfort. A small amount of discomfort is common following the procedure. This should not linger more than a few days and can be reduced with over-the-counter Tylenol. Do NOT use anti-inflammatory medications such as Aleve, Motrin, Celebrex, Naprosyn, and Mobic as they may interfere with the process.

WHEN CAN I EXPECT TO FEEL BETTER?

Unlike other treatments, PRP therapy has a sustained outcome and is considered a permanent fix. The results vary from patient to patient and depend on the location and extent of the injury. On average, most patients of our stem cell center in Charlotte begin to see reduced pain or increased function within four to six weeks. Following the injections, it is important to maintain a well-designed course of exercise therapy and to avoid aggressive exercise / physical activity or overloading the injected tissues. This allows for optimal healing.

ARE THERE RISKS WITH PRP?

PRP is a safe treatment without the risk of allergic reaction because it uses the patient’s own blood. However, placing a needle into the body comes with the risk of infection, bleeding, and nerve damage. These risks are very rare. Additional risks may depend on the area being treated. For more information on risks specific to your condition, consult your Healthcare Provider. PRP is usually not considered a first-line treatment and is considered after other more traditional treatments have failed.

For more information on PRP and regenerative treatments, contact our Charlotte stem cell center to schedule a consultation.

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