Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) is a form of Prolotherapy that helps to enhance the natural growth factors your body uses to heal tissue.
What is plasma and what are platelets?
Plasma is the liquid portion of your blood. It is made up of different components which mostly include water and proteins. It provides a platform for red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets to circulate through the body. Platelets are blood cells that cause blood clots and other different growth healing functions in the body.
The activation of platelets has a large influence on the body’s ability to repair.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy involves injecting a high concentration of an individual’s own platelets to speed up the healing of injured ligaments, muscles, tendons, and joints. PRP injections use the body’s own healing mechanisms to repair musculoskeletal problems.
A PRP injection is prepared by collecting one or several tubes of an individual’s own blood and then placing it in a centrifuge. The centrifuge helps to concentrate the platelets. The platelets are then injected directly into the area that requires healing. After injection, the platelets stimulate the release of growth factors which assist in the repair process.
One of the main benefits of PRP is that the risk of an allergic reaction is the lowest of all injections within medicine, as you are injecting a substance from your own body. The following risks can be associated with PRP therapy:
Temporary nerve damage
Bruising at the site of the injection
After a PRP injection, it is okay to continue with your daily activities. It is not recommended to perform high-intensity exercise activities for two weeks following the treatment.
In the 1970s, researchers discovered that platelets played an essential role in healing injured tissues and also vital in cell mitosis, blood vessel growth and collagen production, and many more. At that time, it wasn’t yet discovered that platelets could directly heal injuries, but they used it for the treatment of diseases caused by low platelets in the blood.
Over time, new research emerged about its ability to repair damaged tissue. Physicians started using the method in cosmetic surgery and periodontal surgery.
Later on, in the year 2000, platelet-rich plasma expanded to orthopedic surgery because it proved that it played an important role in healing fractures and bone injuries. Further research started to show its ability to treat common sports injuries.
Another use for the treatment is for hair loss. Researchers performed a systematic review of 132 papers and 11 publications on PRP as a hair loss treatment in 2019. Most studies indicate that in patients with androgenic alopecia, subcutaneous PRP injection is likely to decrease hair loss, increase hair diameter and increase density.
Musculoskeletal uses for Platelet-rich plasma
Tendon injuries: Tendons are tough, dense tissue bands that bind bone to muscle. When damaged, they can be slow to recover. Doctors often use PRP injections to treat recurrent tendon injuries such as tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis, rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder and knee conditions such a jumper’s knee.
Acute injuries: Doctors have used PRP injections for sports injuries such as strained hamstring muscles or knee sprains.
Osteoarthritis: A 2015 study found that PRP injections were more effective for treating osteoarthritis than hyaluronic acid injections (a conventional therapy). The experiment consisted of 160 participants on a short scale, so it also needs to be performed on a broad scale.
The full effect of the injection can take up to several months to be felt. As the aim of the treatment is to repair, the effect is often lasting. Maximum results are normally achieved at between 6-9 months.
PRP injections aren’t generally painful. Any pain experienced is only temporary. The site of the injection is thoroughly numbed before the injection to ensure maximum comfort during the procedure.
The success rate depends on the condition or injury being treated. On average PRP treatment has an 80% success rate.
One to three injections are required to achieve optimum results.
If you require more than one injection then they should be performed one month apart from each other.
It is okay to walk after an injection but it is not advised to walk more than you would normally walk in a day.
PRP treatment has shown to be effective for mild to moderate osteoarthritis. It can still be effective for severe arthritis but only if it is combined with a tailored exercise program to strengthen the muscle around the knee. This is something we provide at our clinic alongside the injections.