Nearly 56 million of people in the U.S. have some form of arthritis, making it a very common condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The early symptoms vary depending on the type of arthritis. Because advanced stages of arthritis can be painful and debilitating, it’s important to seek medical attention early. Beyond physical therapy and other conservative treatments, one of the most cutting-edge treatment options is PRP for arthritis. If you’re suffering from arthritis pain, especially osteoarthritis pain, continue reading to learn about how this treatment can help you.
What is PRP for arthritis?
PRP, or platelet rich plasma therapy, is a treatment option that relies on the existing healing potential of the body to help heal injuries and trauma. Medical professionals who administer PRP therapy start by drawing a patient’s blood and then running it through a centrifuge. This is to create a concentrated platelet solution that is rich in growth factor proteins. These proteins can help:
- Relieve pain
- Promote healing from injuries
- Regenerate soft bodily tissues
By using PRP for arthritis, you can help promote natural healing within the body. PRP for arthritis has other benefits for patients. It uses the patient’s own blood so there’s no risk of reaction. It’s also been shown to speed up healing times compared to other therapies.
To learn more about PRP for arthritis, check out the video below from Dr. Tory McJunkin as he explains this therapy. From there, we’ll talk about the early warning signs of arthritis so you can learn if you qualify for PRP for arthritis treatment.
What is arthritis?
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, and each has varying warning signals. Some of these types of arthritis are more appropriate for PRP therapy, while others require different treatments. Two kinds of arthritis appear most frequently: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
This condition affects 27 million people in the U.S., making it the most common type. With osteoarthritis, a person’s joint cartilage wears away, reducing the buffer that helps joints move fluidly and without pain. As the cartilage wears away, inflammation and pain develop during movement. Eventually, the cartilage disappears, leaving bone to rub against the bone with no buffer at all.
The condition is progressive, however, not all patients experienced the most advanced stages, marked by extreme pain and limited mobility. Although osteoarthritis can develop in any part of the body, common areas include the knees, hips, and spine. The hands can also be affected.
Because osteoarthritis is marked by inflammation and degeneration that leads to pain, PRP for arthritis in this case, can be a great way to increase the body’s natural healing abilities, while also reducing symptoms.
This is an autoimmune disorder that also affects joint health. This means the body essentially attacks its own joint tissue, leading to pain, inflammation, joint damage, and possible immobility. About 1.5 million people have been diagnosed with the condition, according to CDC.
While osteoarthritis typically affects the body’s large joints, rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the small joints, such as those in the hands and feet. When osteoarthritis does develop in the hands, the most commonly affected joints are those at the tops of the fingers. Rheumatoid arthritis, meanwhile, is more likely to appear in the middle joints or those connecting the fingers and the base of the hand, according to Mayo Clinic.
The biggest difference is where each type causes the most damage: osteoarthritis affects the health of the joint cartilage, which covers the ends of bones at the joint, while rheumatoid arthritis affects the joint lining.
What causes arthritis?
Experts aren’t sure what causes osteoarthritis. The risk of developing it increases with age, however, not all older people experience joint pain. Besides age, risk factors include obesity, previous joint injuries, weak muscles, and genetics.
Doctors also aren’t sure what causes rheumatoid arthritis, although it’s more common in women who are between the ages of 40 and 60. It may also run in families. Identifying the disorder early is essential to minimize damage in the body, particularly to organs, which can also be affected.
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
In osteoarthritis, people often start feeling pain in the form of a dull aching or burning sensation. The timing of this discomfort varies. Some people report stiffness first thing in the morning that may last for 20 minutes. Others say pain or stiffness develops after using the joints heavily, such as spending a day gardening. Still others are sensitive to changes in the weather, particularly dampness, according to Healthline.
Swelling may also develop early in osteoarthritis. The body produces fluid to help compensate for cartilage that is eroding away. The body intends for the liquid, known as synovium fluid, to provide cushioning, but it often ends up finding its way into the joint area, impeding movement and causing additional pain.
A range of activities can lead to these early sensations of pain. Even knee pain experienced when climbing the stairs may be an early indication of osteoarthritis, according to research conducted at the University of Leeds.
Scientists reviewed data from more than 4,600 people and found that those who developed osteoarthritis were more likely to report that climbing the stairs was the first weight-bearing movement in which they felt pain. Later activities resulting in pain were standing and walking, and finally, as the condition progressed, while sitting or even resting in bed.
The Leeds researchers said the study was important because doctors don’t have a robust understanding of what early osteoarthritis looks like. Most people only visit the doctor after experiencing severe pain. If you have any question at all about pain, stiffness, or swelling that you’re experiencing, consider visiting a doctor. Interventions, like PRP for arthritis, made early could possibly help you limit pain and stall or prevent the disease from progressing.
What are the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
Because rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, the symptoms are a little different than osteoarthritis. Also, because of this, PRP for arthritis may not be a therapy that works for this condition.
One early sign is painful joints or swelling that may resemble an injury, according to Health.com. Sometimes, people will be playing a sport and experience swelling the next day. They mistakenly attribute the pain and swelling to an injury, when in reality, it’s rheumatoid arthritis. Some patients have even had surgery and physical therapy to rehab joints but later discovered they had rheumatoid arthritis.
Swelling in the hands or feet may also result in pain. Carpal tunnel syndrome, which manifests as numbness or tingling in the hands may be a sign, as well as foot pain. Some women will report difficulty when wearing heels, for instance.
And while osteoarthritis can develop in one side of the body and not the other, rheumatoid arthritis is more likely symmetrical. A general feeling of joint achiness may develop lasting for a week or longer. Some people also receive wrongful diagnoses of fibromyalgia.
Joint stiffness that begins in the morning and lasts for several hours may develop. Sometimes the joints will lock. The knees or elbows are especially at risk for locking, which happens when swelling prevents the joint from bending.
Non-pain symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, or fever.
When to see a doctor
If you’re at all concerned about symptoms you’re experiencing, visit a doctor. Regardless of which type of arthritis you think you may have, getting help as soon as possible increases the likelihood of a positive outcome. For PRP for arthritis therapy, in particular, getting help early can mean the difference between living with pain and helping the body to heal naturally.
Before beginning PRP for arthritis, your doctor will likely recommend more conservative treatment methods.
The first line of treatment for most forms of arthritis includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications otherwise known as NSAIDs. This class of medication includes ibuprofen and naproxen. These medications can alleviate the chronic inflammation and pain that is associated with arthritis.
Consistent exercise is advisable, as movement helps keep the joints flexible and moving more fluidly. Walking, yoga, and water aerobics are among the best for those who suffer from arthritis as these activities are low impact.
Arthritis therapy sessions with a physical therapist can also help immensely, as they can help devise an exercise and stretching regimen specific to your abilities and pain level. Fortunately, many people report good results with lifestyle modifications, such as reducing stress and changing their diet.
If these conservative measures don’t work, however, your doctor may recommend PRP for arthritis.
How PRP for arthritis can help you
While PRP therapy research is still in infancy, emerging studies are beginning to show how platelet rich plasma therapy could help arthritis patients.
Some of these research studies include:
- A small study that found marked improvements in pain and stiffness for knee osteoarthritis patients for up to six months following treatment
- A study in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine that researched the effects of PRP for early onset arthritis patients and found improvements both six months and one year after treatment
- A study from the American Journal of Sports Medicine that saw a 78% improvement in patients who had undergone PRP for knee osteoarthritis
Since PRP is such a new therapy, there is still research that needs to be done. Larger scale, double-blind studies are being performed that can begin to show more of the possible results of this treatment. Until then, these initial studies combined with anecdotal and practical experience, have shown that PRP can be an effective treatment for arthritis patients.
If you’re interested in learning more about how platelet rich plasma therapy could help you reduce your pain, contact one of our doctors today!