You may have been hearing about the use of PRP or Platelet Rich Plasma for acceleration of the repair of ligaments, tendons and joints after injury or surgery. PRP is uses your own body's repair cells to accelerate the natural repair process of an injured body part. This is different from steroid injections that help with pain but ultimately degenerate the area that was injured because it stops the inflammatory process which brings growth hormones and repairing cells to the area that was injured.
Most people don't know what PRP is or why it's so great so I thought I would try and explain it to you. Platelets are part of your blood, most people don't know that their blood is made of many different components such as red blood cells, white blood cells and yes, platelets. Platelets are cells that repair injured areas and helps in blood clotting and tissue remodeling. Some ingenius researcher figured out that harvesting platelets and putting them where tissue is damaged can significantly accelerate the healing process in an area. This in many cases can eliminate the need for surgery to repair a partially torn tendon, ligament, cartilage or joint.
A PRP injection is often used with Prolotherapy techniques to place the platelets in the desired area of repair. Say you have a knee with degenerating cartilage which gives you pain during your day. If you came to me, and wanted to try PRP for your knee what would happen? First we would take blood from you by using some special needles and tubes so that we can get blood from you without disturbing the platelets. You see, platelets are very susceptible to activation and what we want is to get your platelets to activate but not until we get the platelets to their new home in your knee. After drawing blood, you sit back for about 20 minutes while your platelets get separated out from the rest of your red and white blood cells. White blood cells cause inflammation and sometimes inhibit the work of the platelets. Platelets stimulate the production of growth hormones in the area where they are activated, this is why this is so useful for getting your cartilage to regrow or ligament to knit. Platelets are powerful stuff in healing the body.
After your platelets are harvested and separated from the rest of your red blood cells, we would simply inject them into your knee (or elbow, wrist or ankle etc.) where we want them. If you have a ligament problem, they would be injected where the ligaments are at the bone attachment. If it was a meniscus problem, it would be injected into your meniscal area. If it were the cartilage, the joint would be injected. You should be on your way in about 10 minutes after injection.
Pain during the injection is minimal as the area of injection is treated with a local anesthetic. Afterwards, since there is little inflammation caused by white or red blood cells, you should feel only slight soreness or tenderness for a day or two. After I had my knee treated with PRP I had no problem walking afterwards and little issue in the days after. My knee was fine to run on in about 3-4 days but bike riding was fine in 2 days after treatment. Maximum effect of PRP injections, since your platelets are there to rebuild the ligament, tendon, or cartilage, will be seen and felt in about 4-6 weeks. Repeat injections for severely degenerated areas can be done in 1 month.
After PRP injections, like after Prolotherapy injections, many people will find that their pain has gone and over time their cartilage is repaired. If you catch your knees, shoulders in the early stages of degeneration and sometimes in the later stages as well (but it can take more injections), much surgery is avoided and no longer necessary.
Next time I'll talk about PRP and the use of it in connection with scar repair, wrinkle repair and in treating stretch marks.