What Is Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy?
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Platelet rich plasma therapy has recently received national media attention after famous athletes – Tiger Woods and tennis star Rafael Nadal – have received PRP injections to help alleviate sports-induced injuries. However, platelet rich plasma isn’t just used for professional athletes; anyone can potentially benefit from PRP to help treat nagging sports injuries.
What Is PRP?You can get a great overview of what platelet rich plasma is in the following video.
Platelet rich plasma therapy contains five to ten times more than the usual concentration of platelets and growth factors in normal blood. This enhanced concentration of autologous platelets is achieved by a process known as centrifugation, which is the process of separating light and heavy proteins by using centrifugal force. Calcium and thrombin are added to the collected platelets, which helps to release growth factors. This natural source of growth factors also eliminates the risk of disease transmission.
What Does Research Say About PRP Therapy?Research concerning the clinical validity of PRP therapy is currently being conducted; however, there have been several recent studies that have produced substantial evidence regarding the positive effects of platelet rich plasma therapy. One recent investigation, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, revealed promising results of PRP injections for the treatment of peripheral nerve regeneration following nerve injuries.
Other continuing studies regarding platelet rich plasma are targeted on the effectiveness of this therapy in treating conditions such as:
According to current research, factors that may influence the effectiveness of PRP treatment include the overall health of the patient, the particular area of the body that is being treated, and whether the injury is acute or chronic. Although the results concerning the association of these factors and the success of platelet rich therapy are inconclusive at this time, researchers believe that additional studies concerning these topics are needed.
A 2016 study from the University of Alberta also reported improved pain and mobility after using PRP injections. While it was a smaller study, the results showed clinical relevancy and could push for more research into PRP therapy.
Doug Gross, author on the study and interim chair of physical therapy at the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, stated that:
“Based on MRI findings before and after the injections, we saw improvements in the tissue six months later in five of seven patients undergoing PRP and an appropriate rehabilitation program. The healing in the tissue appeared to correspond with the reported improvement of the pain and also with the clinical assessment of function.”
How Does PRP Work?Prior to the preparation of platelet rich plasma, blood is drawn from the patient for the separation of platelets during the centrifugation process. After this is completed, the increased concentration of platelet rich plasma is combined with the remaining blood. It is then carefully injected with a needle into the injured area. The PRP injection often includes a mixture of pain-relieving anesthetic along with the platelet rich plasma.
The entire process including preparation and cleaning of the injection site and recovery usually takes approximately one to two hours. For a short period after the procedure, pain at the PRP injection site may increase; however, it typically diminishes within a couple of days. It may take a few weeks for the full benefits of the treatment to take effect. The most commonly reported side effect of the procedure is tenderness at the site of the injection. Because a PRP injection is conducted with the patient’s own blood, the risk of contamination and infection is greatly reduced.
Patients are encouraged to minimize activity for at least 24 hours following the procedure. However, most patients are able to participate in their daily activities immediately after the procedure. Patients should continue to participate in any ongoing physical therapy programs, and if they felt some relief from the platelet rich plasma therapy, additional treatments may be warranted.
Conditions Related To PRP TherapyPlatelet rich plasma injections have demonstrated successful results in treating pain associated with torn ligaments and tendons, skeletal fractures, strained muscles, sprained knees and other joints, and other chronic tendon injuries. According to research published by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, tennis elbow is one of the most common injuries that is successfully treated with PRP injections. Platelet rich plasma therapy is also a practical option when a patient’s heel becomes inflamed due to Achilles tendinitis.
Other frequent injuries that are treated with platelet rich plasma include:
- Knee sprains
- Pulled hamstring muscles in the thighs
- Other acute sports injuries
Researchers are also currently conducting studies regarding the effectiveness of platelet rich therapy in the treatment of chronic arthritis of the knee.
Platelet rich plasma therapy has also been used following certain types of surgery to help tissues heal. The injection of the enhanced platelets is thought to expedite recovery, assist with the healing process, and increase mobility of the affected area.
ConclusionPatients with several types of sports injuries and those recovering from certain surgeries may be viable candidates for PRP therapy. This minimally invasive treatment offers promising pain relief, while reducing the likelihood of infection, and the potential need for surgery. As research continues for this relatively new procedure, the medical community as well as patients will benefit from the potential effectiveness of platelet rich plasma therapy.
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