Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has been touted as a breakthrough treatment for a variety of tissue injuries in the sports world. However, this natural and noninvasive therapy is also available to help everyday athletes and non-athletes experience pain relief and restored mobility. More than a treatment, PRP therapy is a process that enables the body to activate its own healing potential. Here’s what makes PRP therapy an attractive option:
- Low risk of rejection or infection because you’re using your own blood.
- Less expensive than surgery.
- Safer than surgery.
- Shown to be more effective than surgery in studies.
- Little to no downtime required.
- Treats a wide variety of tissue injuries throughout the body.
You may be wondering about the specifics of a PRP treatment if you’re considering this option to heal an injury or treat pain. It’s important to know that PRP doesn’t simply re-inject blood into your body. It instead uses a concentrated formula of your own platelets to activate tissue healing and regeneration. Take a look at how a platelet-rich plasma treatment is done.
What Is PRP?
At its core, PRP therapy uses your own blood to foster natural healing at the site of a tissue injury in your body. When creating platelet-rich plasma (PRP) from whole blood, red blood cells are separated by centrifuge to create a more potent, concentrated platelet source. This therapy uses a patient’s own blood to ensure biological compatibility to reduce the risks of negative reactions or infections. The amplified, high-concentration plasma that is injected back into your body helps to promote growth factors that are significant for healing.
The Role of Platelets in Healing
Platelets are important because they promote your body’s own natural ability to heal and regenerate. In fact, most of us have seen platelets in action in everyday situations. Platelets are responsible for blood clots that close cuts in our skin. The healing power of platelets comes by way of protein growth factors that signal the body’s natural healing mode. PRP therapy aims to magnify the power of our platelets by injecting them in high concentrations directly to injured tissue. Research shows that PRP contains much higher concentrations of growth factor than whole blood alone. Next, learn about the process behind turning your own blood into a therapeutic, plasma-rich treatment.
The PRP Process
First, it should be said that a PRP treatment is an outpatient procedure that doesn’t require a lengthy hospital visit or overnight stay. It also offers a very quick recovery time with essentially no requirement for downtime. Most people are able to resume their normal daily activities immediately following an injection. The very first step to PRP therapy is a consultation with a doctor who offers the treatment. This consultation will focus on your health history and area of concern to establish whether or not PRP is an appropriate treatment.
Preparing for a PRP Injection
Prior to your PRP injection, you will participate in common screening procedures that help your doctor to confirm that you’re a good candidate for this treatment. In addition, you may be asked to undergo imaging procedures. Depending on your personal health history, you may be instructed by your doctor to stop taking certain medications in the weeks leading up to your PRP procedure. This can also cover common pain relievers like Advil. You may also be advised to drink plenty of liquids the day before your scheduled treatment. Rest assure that nothing will be left up to guesswork in the weeks leading up to your PRP injection because your doctor will go over all of the details involved for ensuring a safe and effective plan for treatment.
Injection Day: What to Expect
There’s no need to have jitters when you show up for your PRP injection. PRP therapy is a very noninvasive procedure that is also typically painless. The risk of complications is also very low because you’re being injected with your own blood. Some patients do experience a slight sensation during injection. You’ll be instructed to relax as much as possible during the procedure to make it easier for your doctor to perform a smooth injection.
You may be curious about exactly what’s happening while you’re receiving your PRP treatment. PRP injections contain high concentration of platelets. In fact, the amount of platelets being injected during treatment can be as much as nine times what you’d find in a normal sampling of blood. However, the specific concentration used in your treatment will be tailored specifically to meet your needs. A typical PRP therapy session can last from 45 minutes to 90 minutes. You may notice that your doctor uses an ultrasound to carefully guide the injection to the right spot during your treatment. However, not all PRP treatments require the use of imaging. Here’s a rundown of what your visit might look like on appointment day:
- Blood will be drawn from one of your veins.
- Next, that blood will be separated into layers using a centrifuge machine while you wait for the procedure to begin.
- The product created will then be prepared for your injection treatment.
- If requested, a local anesthetic or numbing agent may be used to numb the area where the plasma will be injected.
- An ultrasound probe will be introduced on the skin near your injection site if your doctor will be using imaging to guide the procedure.
- The doctor will then inject the platelet-rich plasma at the treatment site.
- Lastly, the injection site will be cleaned and taped.
PRP therapy doesn’t require any serious downtime. However, your doctor will probably recommend that you rest for at least a few hours during your recovery period. It’s possible that you may experience some soreness, swelling and light bruising following your PRP injection. All of these reactions are quite normal! However, they should resolve within a few hours or days. Some people do experience some temporary rigidness at the injection site. You’ll be briefed on exactly what to expect during your treatment visit. In addition, your doctor will go over some safe and acceptable over-the-counter pain-relief options with you before you leave your visit.
How Long Does It Take to See the Benefits of PRP?
Don’t expect to jump up from the chair feeling like a new person immediately following your PRP injection. Results typically aren’t seen until a few weeks following a PRP injection. Peak results may not be experienced until three to six months following PRP therapy. Post-injection chiropractic or physical therapies can also give you a boost on the path to healing.
Is PRP for Me?
How can you know if you’re a good candidate for PRP? People suffering from pain related to everything from osteoarthritis to “tennis elbow” can seek relief using this natural, cutting-edge treatment. The simplest way to know if PRP is a good fit is to consult with a doctor to go over your full injury history and health background. PRP is worth considering for patients who wish to get long-term relief for painful injuries without the use of invasive surgery or strong pain medications.