Many professional athletes have turned to platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy in recent years to promote the healing of injured tendons, muscle sprains, and soft tissues. It’s a unique therapy that may also benefit others dealing with similar injuries, especially those that are slow to heal. PRP involves the use of a patient’s own blood to promote healing and supplement typical remedies involving medication and physical therapy.
What is Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy?
PRP utilizes the protein-containing platelets in blood, which also have well-known clotting abilities, to facilitate healing. PRP therapy involves the use of plasma with more platelets than what is normally within blood naturally. Preparation for PRP starts with the drawing of blood from the patient. Through a special process called centrifugation, platelets are separated from blood cells. and the resulting mixture is injected into the affected area. PRP treatments can also take place during surgery to improve post-surgery healing and recovery.
Conditions Treated with PRP
Plate-rich plasma therapy appears to work well when used to speed the healing of chronic soft tissue injuries, such as tennis elbow and jumper’s knee, an inflammation of the patellar tendon. While PRP therapy has attracted attention for its use for ligament and muscle injuries in athletes, it may also be used to facilitate the healing of:
- Hamstring pulls
- Knee sprains
- Knee arthritis
- Rotator cuff tears
Targeting Troubled Cells
PRP injections have shown promise when used to stimulate the healing of injuries where cells have difficulty with the natural healing process that normally occurs within cells, as is often the case with conditions like tendinitis that are usually slow to heal. It’s not yet known why an added concentration of protein-infused platelets seems to encourage cells to heal.
Platelets are actually cell fragments that have unique biological features that aid in tissue repair and regeneration. The core concept of PRP is that an increase in platelets encourages healing by enhancing these unique regeneration qualities.
Treating Chronic Conditions
PRP generally isn’t used for conditions that often heal quickly with little or no intervention. Platelet rich plasma procedures are, however, being used to encourage healing with a growing list of chronic conditions beyond sports-related injuries to include:
- Back and neck injuries
- Ankle sprains
- pelvic pain and instability
Increasing Patient Safety
Possible inflammatory side effects associated with PRP therapy are reduced when pure mixtures are used. Since a patient’s own blood is used, there is also a lower risk of allergic reactions and transmissible infections. It’s a procedure that typically takes a few hours when preparation of the mixture and recovery time following administration of the injections are consideration.
Studies are being conducted to determine the overall effectiveness of PRP. Ideal candidates for the treatment are those that are generally in good health with no significant underlying medical conditions that may make healing difficult, such as diabetes. PRP tends to be more effective for chronic tendon injuries. As an added benefit, the risks associated with PRP are minimal.