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What is Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy?

Date: November 9, 2021

Platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP) has been used by professional athletes for decades. However, there’s no need to be an athlete to turn to the benefits of PRP.

Here is a closer look at this regenerative therapy, including how it works, and what injuries it can be used to treat.

What Is Platelet Rich Plasma?

PRP therapy ignites your body’s natural healing abilities. Platelets are regenerative cells found in your bloodstream. To understand platelets, let’s first look at what blood is.

Blood is a combination of liquids and solids. The liquid part is plasma, a combination of water, protein, and salt. The solid parts of your blood contain red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

The liquid plasma carries the blood cells and platelets through your bloodstream, delivering oxygen, nutrients, and several components of our body’s naturally occurring healing cells.  

By extracting your blood and separating it in a centrifuge, a platelet-rich concentrate is created. This concentrate can be injected into injured areas to accelerate the healing process.

When injected into soft tissue, muscles, or joints in a high concentration, the platelets break down and release growth factors that help damaged cells repair and renew.

What Conditions Can PRP Therapy Treat?

The list is long and growing! It began with sports medicine physicians treating common athletic injuries such as torn tendons, torn ligaments, and muscular injuries.

The results were so impressive that osteopaths, dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and pain management specialists began exploring PRP therapy for a variety of conditions including:

  • Alopecia
  • Pattern baldness
  • PRP “vampire” facials
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Chronic plantar fasciitis
  • Anterior cruciate ligament injuries
  • Pelvic pain and instability
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Pulled hamstrings
  • Tennis elbows
  • Knee sprains
  • Ankle sprains
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Ligament sprains
  • Jumper’s knee
  • And more!

PRP injections are also used during surgery to accelerate healing and regeneration for bone grafts, fractures, connective tissue repair, cardiac surgery, urology surgeries, and more.

How Fast Do PRP Injections Take Effect?

How quickly you will begin to see or feel results varies on a variety of factors. This includes what condition you are getting PRP injections for, how old the injury is, how severe the injury is, and how many injections are required.

When it comes to pain, most people begin to feel relief between 2 and 6 weeks. Full regeneration may take several months. Conditions such as hair loss may require a series of injections every 4 to 6 weeks.  

What Are The Risks Of PRP Injections?

PRP therapy should only be performed by a licensed physician. Since your own blood is used, the risks are minimal.

Most procedures only require a small amount of blood to be drawn (often a vial or two) but be sure to eat a full and balanced meal beforehand to minimize the risk of being lightheaded after having blood drawn.

The injection site may be sore and stiff, and you may develop a small bruise. You will likely need to keep the injection site dry for the next 48 hours. Otherwise, it’s a minimally invasive therapy.

While rare, side effects can include:

Am I Eligible For PRP Therapy?

This is something that you must discuss with a physician who performs PRP injections. Not all conditions can be treated with PRP and even those that can, may require additional pre-and post-therapy treatments.

This might include resting the injury while it heals, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, anti-inflammatories, and more. It’s both a reactive and proactive approach, as healing your current injury will minimize your pain and ensure the injury does not progress.

Those who qualify can be of any age and level of physical fitness. However, the therapy cannot be performed on anyone who has the following conditions:

  • Abnormal platelet function
  • Low platelet function
  • Anemia
  • Cancer
  • An active infection

How Effective Is PRP Therapy?

This question is challenging to answer, as results vary by the condition being treated. Between 70 to 90 percent of patients experience either a significant reduction in pain or a full recovery. This includes injuries that are 3 years old or more.

If for any reason your PRP injection doesn’t improve your injury, your pain management physician will talk you through your options.

The advantage of working with a pain management physician, often as part of a multi-practitioner team, is that they specialize in a variety of alternative therapies and treatments that many physicians are not familiar with.

So, if you’ve tried a variety of treatments and therapies and they haven’t worked, consider reaching out to a local pain management physician.

What Does PRP Therapy Entail?

If your physician determines that PRP is right for you, you will be advised on which prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements to stop taking prior to your injection.

This often includes prescription blood thinners, aspirin, ibuprofen, Omega-3 fatty acids, and more.

On the day of your appointment, the entire process takes about 30 minutes.

  1. Your blood is drawn, typically 1 or 2 vials.
  2. The vials are placed into a centrifuge that will separate the platelet rich plasma from the other components in your blood. This takes about 15 minutes.
  3. Your separated plasma is added to a syringe.
  4. Your physician will use a small ultrasound device to view precisely where to inject your plasma.
  5. Once your physician has a clear view, they will do a series of injections. For example, in 2 to 4 areas along a torn tendon.

How Long Is Recovery From Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy?

While the injection site may be sore or stiff for the next couple of days, the injection shouldn’t limit your activity more than it’s already limited. If PRP works for you, your injury will progressively improve over the next several weeks or months.

It is imperative that you follow your physician’s treatment plan for easing back into sports and physical activities. This often means continuing to rest or only doing exercises and stretches that are approved by your physical therapist.

Would You Like To Learn More About PRP Therapy?

If you live in the Phoenix area and would like to learn more about PRP injections, we invite you to reach out to Atlas Pain Specialists. Dr. Sean Ormond will take an in-depth look at your injury and medical files and discuss the best options to minimize your pain and return your mobility. Schedule your same-day appointment now!

About Dr. Ormond
Dr. Sean Ormond is dual board-certified in Anesthesiology and Interventional Pain Management. He completed his anesthesia residency at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio where he served as Chief Resident, followed by an interventional pain management fellowship at Rush University in Chicago, IL. Following fellowship, Dr. Ormond moved to Phoenix and has been practicing in the Valley for a few years before deciding to start his own practice.
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