When a pro athlete like Golden State Warrior superstar Stephen Curry or Washington Nationals ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg gets injured, a lot is at stake. Their celebrity status fills the stands and their performance always brings the fans coming back for more. An injury could sideline them for a long time, affecting the team, their future, and the franchise’s bottom line.
When sidelined by an injury, athletes increasingly turn to platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to alleviate pain and turbo-charge their healing process. But what is a PRP injection, and are you a candidate for it?
PRP: What is it?
PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma, a non-surgical therapeutic procedure that uses your own blood to help rebuild damaged cartilage or tendons. This safe, proven therapy has been successful in relieving pain and starting the healing process for a number of stubborn and painful injuries. PRP involves centrifuging your blood until you are left with a concentrated mix of plasma and growth factors. Plasma is a wonder-substance with the components for healing, including platelets, which promote clotting, and human growth factors, which are proteins that promote healing for injuries. This concentrated mixture is injected directly into the injured tissue, where it basically blankets the damaged and injured area and helps regenerate healthy tissue, starting a healing cascade.
When could I use PRP?
Whether you are a pro athlete who has strained your elbow’s flexor mass (like the National’s pitcher Stephen Strasburg), or a house painter who has injured your rotator cuff, you likely will find PRP a good treatment option. In fact, PRP injections have been used to successfully treat any number of conditions and injuries, to include:
- ACL Injuries
- Hamstring Muscle Injuries
- Rotator Cuff Tears
- Arthritis in the Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Spine
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Tennis Elbow
- Achilles Tendonitis
Many patients also prefer PRP as a form of preventive medicine, so that their chronic injuries and pain don’t develop into something less manageable. Additionally, studies at the National Institutes of Health indicate that PRP may be effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Am I a good candidate for PRP?
For most people, PRP can be an effective and welcome alternative to surgery. The procedure can be done in your doctor’s office and usually takes less than an hour; however, depending on the severity of the injury more than one injection may be needed.
After the procedure, patients can expect to rest their affected area for approximately six weeks before returning to most regular activities. This may seem extreme, but the time it takes to heal after PRP on average is 50% less than from other treatments. You may consider PRP if:
- Physical therapy to strengthen the affected area has not helped.
- You are sensitive to, prefer not to take anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), or find that they are ineffective.
- Joint aspirations are not appropriate or do not provide adequate pain relief.
- Steroid injections have not worked, or you would prefer to avoid them.
When might you not be a good candidate for PRP?
While PRP is a safe, non-invasive treatment and therapy option for most people, it may not be for everyone. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have any of the following conditions:
- Cancer that has not been in remission for at least 5 years
- Other malignancies or blood-borne diseases
- Current infections
- If you are taking Coumadin or other blood thinners
- Cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s Disease
There may be other conditions that could influence your doctor’s decision to move forward with PRP. For example, PRP injections are not typically recommended for the most severe cases of osteoarthritis, or if diagnostic imaging has shown clear signs of structural damage.
As always, be as open and forthright as possible when discussing PRP with your physician. If you are looking for a qualified, experienced orthopedic surgeon in Broward County, and are interested in learning more about PRP or other treatment options, call Total Orthopaedic Care at (954) 735-3535. We will be happy to answer all your questions about any musculoskeletal conditions or injuries.