Here at Southwest Spine and Sports, we agree that regenerative medicine therapies are one of the biggest topics in the medical world, and platelet-rich plasma is near the forefront. Platelet-rich plasma, also known as PRP, is generated from a person’s own blood, and it is packed with tons of growth factors and other key components that play a role in tissue healing throughout the human body.
Injuries, whether from sports, running, weightlifting, or other activities, can wear down the body and limit your functionality and quality of life. Damage often becomes more and more common as the body gets older, and it also becomes harder for the body to heal. Repetitive injuries can also become more problematic. PRP regenerative medicine therapies can be a great way to jumpstart the healing process, getting you back to all the activities you love and enjoy. For any questions or more information, please contact Dr. Michael Wolff, MD at 480.860.8998.
How Does PRP Work?
PRP is derived from a vial of your own blood. A small amount is taken, and then it is centrifuged to separate the components of blood from one another. This separation isolates the red blood cells from the white blood cells. The red blood cells compact at the bottom of the tube, allowing the white blood cells, also known as plasma, to be easily removed from the top. After this initial separation, the plasma is centrifuged again to isolate the platelet-rich from the platelet-poor plasma.
The platelet-rich portion of the plasma is packed full of growth factors, which all play a role in the healing process. There are a variety of different types, all of which play an important role. Growth factors are especially crucial in the initial phases of healing as they help to regulate inflammation levels, reduce the formation of scar tissue, and help promote the growth of new blood vessels to aid in the healing process.
PRP also has the ability to generate new tissue growth. This can be especially useful for degenerative problems, cartilage injuries, surgical heart procedures, muscle strains, tendon damage, fascia irritation, and more.
How PRP Aids in Injury Recovery
Because of the many tissue types that PRP can help heal, it has been shown to be an effective treatment method for a number of different injuries throughout the body.
Tendon and Ligament Strains and Tears
Tendon and ligament problems are some of the most common impairments, and they are frequently repetitive injuries as well. Tendon injuries can include rotator cuff tears or strains, tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis, patellar tendinopathy, and golfer’s elbow. Tendons are responsible for connecting muscles to bones, so they are found around nearly every joint in the body. When muscles are used repetitively, the tendons are forced to absorb a large amount of shock, and they can become irritated from rubbing against bones.
Ligaments connect bone to bone. The most common injuries are in either the knee, with the ACL, MCL, PCL, or LCL, or in the elbow, with the UCL, which is commonly injured with throwing. The knee ligaments are often injured in sports such as skiing, basketball, football, or soccer, and the UCL is most commonly injured while playing baseball or softball.
Tendons and ligaments generally heal very slowly because they have very little blood flow. However, with PRP injections, tendons and ligaments have been shown to increase their regeneration and increase the strength of the tissues after healing. This can maintain the integrity of the tendons and ligaments, allowing equal function compared to the original tissue.
Osteoarthritis causes damage to and wears down the articular cartilage found on the end of the bones. This reduces joint mobility and can cause constant pain. Osteoarthritis is common in older adults, but it can occur at any age in joints that are overused. The ability of PRP to regenerate cartilage tissues can be a significant help in treating this condition, reducing symptoms and restoring joint function.
One study of 78 individuals who suffered from bilateral osteoarthritis in the knees showed that both a single injection and two injections of PRP into the knee produced positive results, lowering pain and stiffness while increasing physical joint function. They noticed these results both after two to three weeks and after six months. The control group in the study degraded in all of these categories.
Cartilage Tears or Spinal Disc Compression
Cartilage tears are most common in the meniscus of the knee, and the intervertebral discs between the vertebrae in the spine can become worn down, dried out, and compressed over time. Both of these injuries result from damage to fibrocartilage. These areas are composed of thick areas of cartilage, and they play critical roles in resisting compression and absorbing forces put through the body. PRP therapies have been shown to help reduce inflammation in these areas, stimulate new cartilage and blood vessel growth, and restore overall function.
One study compared the difference between PRP injections directly after a spinal disc injury, two weeks after the injury, and a control group. Both groups that received PRP injections showed improvement, but the group that received the treatment immediately showed more promising results. The benefits noted included reduced inflammation, more spinal fluid inside the discs, and increased disc height that improved function.