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  • Writer's pictureDarrick Payne

What is PRP?

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections are treatments commonly used for musculoskeletal pain, among other things as mentioned below. PRP is essentially a super-concentrated collection of platelets and growth factors in the plasma portion of your blood. This autologous blood product is used to facilitate the healing process via the much higher than normal concentration of platelets and through the release of a substantial amount of growth factors that stimulate recovery in non-healing or slowly healing wounds/injuries.

Chronic injuries often occur in situations where the injured tissue has poor blood flow (such as tendon injuries and cartilage degeneration). PRP causes a supra-physiologic release of a variety of growth factors that serve to promote the healing process. Studies have shown that this occurs because these bioactive substances attract stem cells, macrophages, and osteoblasts to the affected area, thereby stimulating tissue regeneration and healing, along with the removal of necrotic tissue. Platelets themselves are also responsible for the development of new blood vessels and connective tissue.

PRP has found increased use in chronic tendon injuries, as these injuries are often very slow to heal. Tendons are susceptible to injury due to mechanical issues related to the forceful stress on the tendon fibers, causing them to be more vulnerable than other tissues. These injuries are then slow to heal due to general poor vascularity. In addition, tendons often heal through scarring, a process that adversely affects how well they function and increases the probability of re-injury in the future. PRP can be used to help augment the natural healing process by promoting true healing (not scarring) and re-vascularization, and by speeding the healing process. This treatment is increasingly used for lateral epicondylitis ("tennis elbow"), plantar fasciitis, and in chronic Achilles and patellar tendon injuries. For more information, see studies by Mishra et al. in 2006 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine and by Edwards & Calandruccio in American Journal of Hand Surgery in 2003.

Plasma therapy has also shown to be helpful in non-healing skin wounds related to peripheral vascular disease, neurologic conditions, trauma, infection, etc. A 2006 study by McAleer et al. [McAleer JP, Kaplan E, Persich G. Efficacy of concentrated autologous platelet-derived growth factors in chronic lower-extremity wounds. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2006;96(6):482-8.] showed very promising results in healing wounds that had previously failed all other treatments.

There is also evidence to suggest that PRP can be beneficial in hair loss treatments and for improving some skin treatments such as microneedling. I will go into further detail on these types of therapies another time.

I have used PRP therapy myself for two different injuries, one to my shoulder/rotator cuff tendons and once for a sprained knee ligament. In both circumstances, I tried conservative approaches first, including ice/heat, rest, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. These methods did not work for either injury, which led me to having PRP injections. Within a week of each treatment, my pain was almost gone and my overall function was much improved. And only a short time later I was essentially back to normal! I had these therapies years ago, and have had no recurrence of injury nor have I experienced pain again. Having gone through the experience twice, both times with amazing results, I am a firm believer and proponent of PRP. Call today to discuss if you are a candidate!

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