Platelet-rich plasma injections are a unique medical procedure used to promote healing in tissues such as muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. PRP is made from your own blood, which eliminates the risk of rejection and lowers the risk of allergic reactions. It has been safely used for many years to repair soft tissue and damaged joints.
At Pacific Pain & Wellness Group in Torrance, our regenerative medicine specialists can use PRP to help you heal faster and live with less pain. Get in touch with us today to schedule your personalized consultation at (310) 437-7399.
What is PRP?
PRP is a treatment that utilizes the body's own cells as medicine. When used to heal musculoskeletal structures like bone, muscle, ligaments, and tendons, this science is called orthobiologics.
When PRP is used for other medical purposes, it is usually referred to as regenerative medicine, which includes both platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell injections. PRP was first used in 1999 to help build bone tissue in patients receiving dental implants. Within just a few years, doctors began using it to help athletes recover from sports injuries.
When PRP is injected into damaged tissue, it can help the body not only to heal faster, but also to heal more completely. PRP treatments have allowed many injured athletes to get back to performing at their best. Today, medical science is using PRP for a number of other uses including knee joint pain, hair loss restoration, and cosmetic anti-aging treatments, to name a few.
What is in PRP?
Platelet rich plasma is also called fractionated plasma, because it contains a concentrated fraction of whole blood. This concentration includes growth factors that may help create new blood vessels and skin cells as well as other tissues in the body. PRP may also help repair connective tissue such as ligaments, tendons, muscle tissue, and joint cartilage.
Platelet-rich plasma contains more than 800 different types of cells, enzymes, and proteins including growth factors (new cell proliferation) and cytokines (inflammatory responses and more). It also has antibacterial effects that may help prevent infections in active wounds and internal injuries.
A 2012 report describing advances in PRP medicine suggested that it may also play a role in:
- Healthy blood clotting activity
- Blood vessel tightening
- New collagen growth (connective tissue)
- Formation of new blood vessels in injured tissue
- New tissue growth in treated areas
How is PRP Obtained?
Platelet-rich plasma comes directly from a blood sample drawn from your arm. Depending upon how much is needed for injection, one or more vials of blood are gathered and then placed in a spinning machine called a centrifuge. This machine spins the blood at thousands of revolutions per minute to separate out the various components in the blood.
About 45% of your total blood volume is red blood cells (RBCs). These cells help to carry oxygen throughout your body. RBCs are the heaviest type of cell in your blood, so when they are spun in the centrifuge, they naturally sink to the bottom of the vial. Your RBCs are not used in PRP injections.
The lightest part of your blood, by weight, is water and low quality plasma, meaning that it is not platelet-rich. Because this portion of your blood weighs the least, it naturally floats to the top of the vial.
The most desirable layer is the center layer, or the portion of blood containing a high concentration of platelets, white blood cells, and growth factors. This is the layer that the doctor extracts from the vial to inject into an injured joint or tissue.
The amount of platelets and white blood cells (WBC) found in your PRP injection will depend on the composition of your blood. If you have a lower concentration of platelets and WBC, then your PRP will be less concentrated. However, if your blood has high amounts of these cells, your PRP concentration will naturally be higher.
Your doctor may add other substances to your PRP injection to enhance its results. One ingredient is thrombin, a substance that your body makes when it needs to create a blood clot. Thrombin helps coagulate blood in the treated area, which can prevent excessive bleeding.
This additive is especially useful for patients who are currently taking blood thinner medication (anticoagulants). It is very important that you mention all medical conditions and medications to your doctor so that he or she can make sure that thrombin is included in your injection, if necessary.
Lab Tests Prior to PRP Injections
Before your doctor can determine if you are a good candidate for PRP injections, lab work may be done to assess your health. One red flag your doctor may look for is white blood cell count.
When white blood cell count is high, it may indicate the presence of an infection or increased immune system response. This may suggest that an active infection is going on, which would need to be resolved prior to receiving PRP injections.
PRP for Sports Injuries
Athletes require effective treatments that can get them back to competing in as little time as possible. PRP can be used to help you get back in the game. One big advantage of PRP is that it is a nonsurgical solution that can be tried before major surgery is recommended. This can give you more time to heal, thus buying you time to see if surgery can be postponed or avoided altogether.
Joint injuries are especially difficult to treat. PRP can make it possible for your cartilage to start healing. Cartilage is especially challenging because it doesn't contain many blood vessels, therefore it tends to heal very slowly.
Without a healthy blood supply, a cartilage injury can lead to chronic pain, impairment, joint damage, and loss of function. For an athlete, this can mean the end of a career.
When any injury occurs in the body, specialized cells rush to the area to repair it. With a sports injury, an athlete doesn't always have time to wait for the body to heal at its own pace. Speeding up the healing process can have a positive impact in multiple areas.
Platelet-rich plasma improves blood supply and carries nutrients to the injured area. It contains high concentrations of specialized cells that ignite the body's healing process. With PRP, these life-giving cells can be injected directly into the injury site to speed tissue recovery.
Using the body's own platelet-rich plasma can also help reduce the need for pain medication. Opioid painkillers are often prescribed after a sports injury or surgery to help cope with severe pain.
- With PRP, athletes can heal faster, thus reducing their pain medication intake and how long they need to take it.
- With less medication in their system, this reduces their risk for developing a tolerance and dependence to opioid painkillers.
In one study conducted in 2014, fifty-three amateur athletes were treated with PRP injections immediately after suffering a muscle injury. Platelet-rich plasma was injected directly into the injured muscle using ultrasound to guide needle placement.
Results showed that all of the athletes fully recovered and were able to return to their athletic activities. Only one participant experienced a recurrent muscle injury within 12 months after treatment.
This study highlights the value of platelet-rich plasma being used in the early stages after an injury occurs. This is the best time to use PRP as a booster for the body's natural healing capabilities.
Because PRP is made from your own blood, there is a very low risk of negative side effects. The same cannot be said for pharmaceutical-based injections such as corticosteroid shots.
PRP for Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the gradual degeneration of a joint. It can occur in any joint in the body, but most commonly happens in the knees. Knee osteoarthritis can cause severe pain and stop a person from staying active.
PRP can improve healing and tissue repair in knee joints, which can decrease pain and inflammation, improve mobility, and slow down or even stop joint degeneration.
If a joint has been severely damaged by osteoarthritis, PRP injections can help the joint to form new cartilage. It does this by turning on the cells that are responsible for cartilage production.
Studies have found that:
- PRP may also boost the amount of synovial fluid in the joint capsule, which cushions the joint.
- With more cartilage and synovial fluid in the capsule, the added cushion reduces friction between the bones and relieves joint pain.
- Additional studies suggest that certain proteins in PRP can help mask pain perception in the treated area.
- According to a 2019 summary of medical evidence supporting PRP injections for osteoarthritis, PRP was found to be more effective than hyaluronic acid in reducing knee joint pain.
- This is encouraging news because study participants reported less pain for six to twelve months after injection. With other types of joint injections, pain relief lasts for a much shorter.
PRP Versus Corticosteroid Injections
One of the first types of treatments that your doctor may try if you are experiencing joint pain is a corticosteroid shot. Steroid medication is designed to reduce inflammation, which provides some degree of pain relief. Cortisone is the most common medication used in steroid injections.
Oftentimes, the injected solution will also contain a local anesthetic (such as lidocaine) to numb the area so you don’t feel as much discomfort during the procedure. Local anesthetic lasts for several hours after the procedure. If you still experience discomfort after your procedure, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers.
One of the disadvantages of cortisone shots is that they can only be repeated a few times in a 12-month period. Generally, doctors will prescribe only three or four series of injections before turning to alternative treatment options that have fewer side effects.
When injected too often or in large amounts, cortisone shots can cause damage to skin, cartilage, muscle, connective tissue (ligaments and tendons), bone, or nerves. This medication also carries an increased risk of infection at the injection site.
PRP is an attractive alternative to cortisone shots because it:
- Does not cause tissue damage
- Can be used as often as needed
- Provides extended pain relief
- Has no limitations in terms of quantity used
- Has a lower rate of infection at the injection site
- Is needed less often because it promotes tissue healing
The bottom line is that PRP promotes new cell growth and healing, whereas cortisone shots must be used sparingly because they have the potential to do the opposite.
The Best Time to Get PRP Injections
PRP injections work best when they are given during the initial healing phase after an injury or surgery. If you are going to have surgery, you can pre-arrange for your doctor to give you post-op PRP injections to help boost tissue healing and recover faster.
Our team offers a range of medical services including pre-surgical pain consultations to help you with post-op recovery and optimize your comfort level. A pain relief plan can help you use less opioid pain medications, which can reduce your chances of opioid addiction.
If PRP injections are not providing sufficient relief, we offer a number of other innovative options. Our team of pain management specialists are experts at treating painful conditions in the:
- Knee, shoulder, and hip joints
- Neck and back pain
- Shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff tears
- Ligament and tendon inflammation, tears, and ruptures
- Sprains in the ankle, foot, knee, and wrist
When PRP injections are done soon after an injury, your body has the greatest chance of fully recovering. This can help you avoid long-term pain and surgery. If you have an old injury or arthritis pain that has taken years to develop, PRP can still help you by initiating cellular repair and igniting your body’s healing response.
With platelet-rich plasma, there is hope for a better tomorrow.
Get PRP Injections in Torrance – Pacific Pain & Wellness Group
Our team of highly skilled doctors is ready to help you feel better so you can enjoy a better quality of life. PRP may be able to help you heal from an injury or surgery, or to mend a damaged joint.
At Pacific Pain & Wellness Group, we care about you as much as you do. Our goal is to help you feel better so you can live better. Come in today for a personalized treatment plan so you can get back to doing what you love…without pain or limitations. We can be reached at (310) 437-7399.