For Patients
A Physician Talks PRP: Using Your Body’s Own Platelets to Heal Injury

Chronic pain can keep your body hurting for weeks, months, or even years at a time, impacting your day-to-day life and even your work and time with family. It can be a result of an injury, other health issue, or there may be no apparent reason for the pain.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is one of the newest ways to treat pain. PRP uses a highly concentrated solution of your body’s own platelets to accelerate the natural healing of damaged tissue. Platelets are found in your blood and play an important role in healing injuries. Growth factors and proteins found in the platelets speed up the body’s tissue repair process, especially in degenerative tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) that have not healed correctly initially after an injury or from overuse.

Many professional athletes have undergone PRP therapy to avoid surgery, and I’ve also personally had PRP injection for my own shoulder issues. It is a proven approach that for me, worked tremendously, enabling me to avoid surgery and continue working and also get back to throwing a ball with my sons. Here is what I tell my patients considering PRP as a form of treatment:

It’s a relatively simple procedure.
To begin the PRP process, we draw your blood just like we would for a regular blood draw. We spin the blood down in a centrifuge, separating the red and white cells and platelets. We extract the platelets and inject them into the injured area. It’s comparable to a cortisone injection, but instead of simply decreasing inflammation it uses your body’s own material to stimulate healing.

Your body plays a role in healing.
The growth factors in the platelets promote the injured area of your tissues to create a healing response. This helps to reset a chronically injured area that has experienced pain for a long time.

There are many good candidates for PRP.
Usually a patient is someone with a long-term chronic injury. The body has tried to heal the injury but has done so in an unhealthy way, or an area simply won’t heal. PRP helps to restart the healing process. There are many different conditions we treat with PRP. People with mild to moderate osteoarthritis can benefit greatly. Those who have had lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and perhaps had a cortisone injection and continue to have pain may benefit from PRP therapy. Other conditions we can treat with PRP include plantar fasciitis, MCL sprains, Achilles tendinitis, rotator cuff tears, or other chronic tendinopathies.

Pain is minimal.
The PRP injection procedure is usually minimally painful and similar to that of any other type of injection. Even though it may be somewhat uncomfortable it’s important to remember that it is creating a healing response, so an increased pain level in the days after the injection is expected. Occasionally we may have patients wear a sling or brace for a short period of time and the pain rarely requires any treatment beyond Tylenol and ice.

There is a recovery period.
You can expect a recovery period of four to six weeks as your body works to heal itself. The first two weeks you’ll have to keep physical activity to a relative minimum, and after two weeks you can begin physical therapy. For example, if you have PRP treatment for your knee you will not be on crutches but may walk with a limp during this period. In some cases, depending on severity a repeat treatment may be necessary.

PRP is safe.
Since the body is using its own platelets to heal, the procedure is very safe. There are normally no side effects besides the inflammatory healing process for a few days. The risk of anything beyond that is very minimal.

Jonathan S. Yoder, MD is a sports medicine physician with OrthoCarolina Winston.

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