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What is PRP?

Platelet rich plasma, or “PRP,” therapy uses injections of a concentration of a patient’s own platelets to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints. In this way, PRP injections use each individual patient’s own healing system to improve musculoskeletal problems.

PRP is a non-operative, permanent solution for shoulder pain caused arthritis, rotator cuff tears and other ligament or tendon sprains and tears. A concentration of platelets are injected into the damaged area to promote tissue repair and accelerate healing. Platelets are rich in growth and healing factors. On average, an injured individual can get back to a pain-free life in four to six weeks.

What conditions benefit from PRP injections?

Platelet rich plasma injections are most effective for the following conditions:

  • Lumbar spine disc pain
  • Rotator cuff injuries, including partial-thickness
  • Shoulder pain and instability
  • Tennis and golfer’s elbow
  • Hamstring and hip strains
  • Knee sprains and instability
  • Patellofemoral syndrome and patellar tendinitis
  • Ankle sprains
  • Achilles tendinitis & plantar fasciitis
  • Knee, hip, and other joint osteoarthritis
  • Nerve entrapment syndromes, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction and pain
  • Lumbar and cervical facet dysfunction and pain

Additionally, PRP can be effective for many cases of osteoarthritis by stimulating healing of cartilage and reducing pain and disability. This includes:

  • Knee arthritis
  • Hip joint arthritis
  • Shoulder arthritis
  • Ankle arthritis

What are the benefits of PRP injections?

PRP presents patients with a long lasting, permanent solution that will not wear off over time as with a traditional pain injection. PRP could help a patient avoid joint replacement surgery or back surgery.

How is PRP created?

Creation of PRP is simple, painless, and conveniently done at an office visit. The entire process of drawing blood to solution preparation only takes approximately 25-30 minutes. A small amount of blood is drawn from the patient, just like a routine blood test.

The drawn blood is drawn it is then placed into a centrifuge. The centrifuge is a machine that spins the blood at high speeds in order to separate the blood into red blood cells and concentrated platelets.

Once the blood is separated, the red blood cells are discarded, and the concentrated platelet-rich plasma is ready to be used in the treatment process.

How are the PRP injections administered?

The injection process typically takes less than an hour, including the creation of the PRP. The platelet-rich portion is collected and injected back into the injured tendon, ligament, muscle, joint, or disc that has been determined to be a source of pain and is not-healing appropriately.

When structures around the spine are being injected, x-ray (fluoroscopy) guidance is used to assure safe and proper placement of PRP at the affected site. In the extremities, ultrasound-guidance is commonly used to inject PRP into the appropriate tendon, ligament or joint that is being targeted. The number of injections varies based on each patient’s individualized condition, but typically ranges from two to six injections done over time.

Patients typically experience significant reduction in pain after the first or second injection.

PRP injections usually are not painful. However, the discomfort level depends on the part of the body being treated. Injections into the joint are of minimal discomfort. There is sometimes a small amount of pain after the procedure; however, this does not last more than a few days and can be minimized with over-the-counter Tylenol.

It is critical to avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Mo-trin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) and meloxicam (Mobic). These drugs may impede the healing process.

When can I expect to feel better?

PRP therapy is a permanent fix and has a sustained outcome. On average, most patients start to see signs of improvement in the form of reduced pain or increased function within four to six weeks.

Continuing a well-designed course of physical therapy and avoidance of aggressive physical activity or over-loading the injected tissues is advised in the weeks that follow the injections. This is done to allow the tissues to heal best.

Are there risks with PRP?

PRP is a safe treatment option with no risk of allergic reaction because it is your own blood.

Anytime a needle is placed in the body, there is a risk of infection, bleeding, and nerve damage. However, these events rarely occur. Other risks depend on the area being treated. If you are unsure of the risks of your specific condition, consult your physician.

In general, PRP is not considered a first-line treatment and is usually considered after other more traditional treatments have failed.