PRP Injections are a Non-Surgical Treatment for Back, Knee, Hip, or Shoulder Joint Pain Relief
In biology class we are taught that platelets play an important role in the clotting process. When we get a cut, platelets are carried to the area of the injury causing the blood to clot and allowing healing process to begin. End of story, right?
Not so fast…As it turns out this is not the end of the story for platelets. In addition to their role in the process of keeping us from bleeding to death when we are cut, they also play a crucial factor in the healing process. Platelets contain multiple substances including growth factors and cytokines, and they also contain many biologically active proteins that attract other cells to the area of injury. When these proteins are released from the platelets they attract stem cells, macrophages, and other cells involved in tissue regeneration and healing.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy takes advantage of the healing properties of platelets and allows for specifically targeted injections of PRP to areas where there has been chronic damage or injury. Simply put, PRP is a volume of plasma that has a concentration of platelets that is 1.5 to 10 times higher (and sometimes more!) than what is found in normal human blood. PRP is prepared by taking blood from the patient and placing it into a centrifuge over the course of approximately 15 minutes. All of the red blood cells, and most of the plasma is then removed or concentrated , leaving a plasma concentrate with a higher than normal concentration of platelets — this is the PRP used for the injection.
Based upon currently available studies, PRP appears to be very safe, given the fact that the substance being injected comes from that very same patient! Well-designed studies showing efficacy are still emerging however at this point in time there is very good data supporting the use of PRP in knee osteoarthritis, plantar fasciitis, spinal disc disease, and multiple types of tendinitis.
PRP can also be used to attract stem cells to a certain part of the body where intense healing is required. Stem cells are also found throughout the human body. Their purpose is to move throughout the body to places where an injury has occurred and to regulate the healing process. This process includes stimulating new cell growth, recruiting growth factor proteins, and serving as the “building blocks” for tissue repair. When we inject PRP into a damaged area in the body, the chemicals released from the platelets act as “signals” for stem cells, which are then attracted to the areas where the PRP has been injected.
Since PRP therapy depends on a natural biologic process the results are typically not immediate. Patients are told to minimize use of the affected body part for up to 4-6 weeks to allow adequate healing to occur. But the hope is that once the patient returns to normal function the overall pain level will be lower and functionality will be improved.