Athletes who endure pain from tendon injuries can finally get the relief they are looking for through a safe and nor-surgical procedure. It is called the Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy. The therapy utilizes the platelets from the athlete’s blood in rebuilding the damaged tendon. It has been a successful therapy not only for pain relief but also in the healing process.
Your tendons are a rope-like structure that connects the muscles to the bones, allowing the bone to move. This kind of injury is often experienced by football, tennis baseball and other sports athlete that requires repetitive throwing movement. Traditional treatment such as ice, anti-inflammatory and rest do not always provide long-lasting relief.
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The PRP treatment was introduced to the Emory Sports Medicine arsenal. The therapy is done in an examination room for about an hour. The doctor will get the blood from the patient and placed it in a centrifuge for 15 minutes to separate the platelets. It is said to be an effective relief for tendon injury.
The therapy has made headlines because it is favored by athletes to help them recover from their injury. Some doctors are now using this therapy and PRP injections for many reasons such as promoting tissue-healing to encouraging hair growth. However, research studies show it does not prove that PRP works for the condition.
What is a Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy?
Although your blood is mainly a liquid, it also contains small solid components such as white cells, platelets, and red cells. Platelets are best known for their vital part in clotting blood. However, platelets also contain hundreds of proteins which are important in the healing of injuries.
Platelet-rich Plasma is plasma with many platelets than what is usually found in your blood. The concentration of this platelet can be 5 to 10 greater than the usual. When developing the preparation, the blood must be drawn from the patient. Platelets are then parted from the blood cells, and the concentration is increased during centrifugation. Thee increase the concentration of the platelet is combined with the remaining blood.
Most medical insurances do not cover the plasma-rich therapy. For people who want to undergo the treatment will pay for the therapy themselves. Experts are starting to acknowledge the use of the treatment due to its potential in treating injuries.
How does Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy work?
Platelets are blood cells in the body that plays a very important role in the body. It promotes blood clotting so that you will not experience excessive bleeding when you are cut. Another is to contain proteins in your blood that help the wounds to heal easily.
Researchers hypothesize that through injecting the areas of tissue damage or inflammation with high concentrations of platelets, it can encourage the wounds to heal. A plasma sample is taken from the patient and another specialized device which spins at high speed. The process separated the platelets from the other blood components. The concentration of the platelets is injected into the area of the person’s body that is needed to be treated. Since the injection contains a high concentration of platelets, doctors theorize that the injection will speed up the healing process.
To stop the pain and to speed healing, the injury site is treated with a PRP injection. It can be performed in two different ways:
- PRP can be injected into the damaged area. For example, Achilles Tendonitis is a condition commonly seen in tennis players and runners; the heel cord can become swollen and painful. A combination of a local anesthetic and PRP can be injected directly into the tissue. Afterward, the pain in the area may increase for the first two weeks, and it may take several weeks before the patient feel the effect of the injection.
- PRP may also be used to improve the healing after surgery for several injuries. For instance, if you are one of those athletes, with a torn heel cord, you may be needing surgery to repair the tendon. With PRP, the healing of the tendon is done to treat the injured area. The procedure is done through preparing the PRP in a different way that allows it to be stitched into torn tissues.
Conditions treated with PRP
Research has been shown to assess the effectiveness of the therapy. The results of the studies are inconclusive because the effectiveness of the treatment may vary. Factors that can include the effectiveness of Platelet Rich Plasma treatment include:
- The overall health of the patient
- Area of the body being treated
- Whether the injury is chronic or acute
Chronic Tendon Injuries
According to the recent research studies, PRP is an effective treatment for chronic tendon injuries, a very common injury of the tendons. The use of PRP for another chronic disease like tendon injuries or inflammation of the tendon is promising. However, it is still difficult to say that PRP is more effective than the traditional treatment.
Acute Ligament and Muscle Injuries
PRP is all about the treatment for sports injuries such as muscle injuries and ligament injuries. It is also used to treat professional athletes with injuries like knee sprains and pulled hamstring muscles. Nevertheless, there is no certain proof that the therapy improves the healing process in all the types of injuries.
Recently, PRP has been associated with a certain type of surgery to help improve the healing process of the tissues. Platelet-rich Plasma therapy is also believed to be useful in shoulder surgery and helps repair torn rotator tendons. At this time, there is no certain benefit using the PRP in this instance.
Some research is being done to assess the effectiveness of the therapy in the treatment of the knee arthritis. It is still soon that this type of treatment is not yet proven to be an effective method of treatment.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy has been used in a very limited way to make the healing quicker of broken bones. So far, the treatment showed no significant benefit.
Side effects of Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy
The treatment involves using the person’s platelets; they do not experience adverse reactions to the injections. It is also likely that a person who undergoes PRP may have pain, irritation or bleeding related to the injection area. Most people can also resume their normal activities after having a PRP injection. The average time for blood-drawing to the area of the injection is about a half an hour.
Not all athletes respond to this kind of therapy. The PRP is not a silver bullet. There can be side effects related to this kind of treatment method. Here are some of the most common side effects of PRP:
While there are precautions taken when injecting a PRP to patients with a sterilized procedure, the possibility of infection can happen to the injured area. The treatment if not handled by a professional can cause infection in the affected area or the injured part of the body.
- Pain in the Injured Area
Some who have undergone the PRP therapy complain about a severe soreness or aching in the spot of the injection. There are times that this pain is felt deep inside the area, whether in the bone or muscle.
- Allergic Reaction
Some of the patient’s body may react negatively to the treatment and may also reject their serum. It is a rare thing, but it does happen in reality. That is why more studies are needed to understand why.
- No Improvement
While this is not a side effect, it still needs to mention that not all the athletes respond to the treatment. There are times that the pain and soreness in the affected area remain the same, even after a period of rest and after a PRP injection.
- Blood Clot
A blood clot form when there is a damage in the lining of the blood vessel. Since the injection uses a needle, there is a chance that the vein or artery could be damaged. It usually happens when a blood clot happened and treated like a normal clot.
- Skin Discoloration
Sometimes the color of your skin after a PRP injection will appear bruised. It is normally based on the history of bruising. But if it happens that the bruising is a dark and deep bruise, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
All of these side effects are harmful and could threaten your life as well. Before choosing this therapy, make sure that it is effective and safe. If you are experiencing these side effects after your PRP injection, contact your doctor and have a check-up as soon as possible. Other side effects such as occasional bruising, mild swelling, etc. may also be expected. If you are planning to undergo the therapy, it is important to make sure that the therapy is performed by qualified doctors.
What does Research say about PRP?
The use of the PRP as a treatment method for injuries for tendon and joint is still in its early stages. In one of the review, it says there that the quality of the evidence is very low because most of the trials used flawed methods which only means that the results are not reliable. The trials also used different ways of preparing the platelet-rich plasma.
Based on research, the conclusion drawn was the following:
- Very low-quality evidence existed for a minimum benefit of PRP injections for pain relief in a short term.
- The injections were also reported to not deliver a significant difference in function in the short or long term.
- The available evidence with regards to PRP is not adequate to support the use of the PRP for treating muscle injuries and show whether the effects of the PRP vary according to the type of injury.
Drink lots of water and avoid caffeine before having your blood taken. It will make the blood drawing and the vein location process easier. Most of the patients will feel a slight sting on the PRP injection. For people who are suffering from platelet disorder cannot have PRP therapy but if the unsure check your GP.
After the injection, you can still drive your vehicle. Aside from that, the injection site should be kept clean and dry within 24 hours. Alcohol and intense exercise should also be avoided after the injection. Another important tip is to make sure that the treatment is effective and will best help you relive your pain or injury. Before deciding, it is also important to talk to your doctor first about this kind of therapy.
PRP does not work for Everyone
It is essential to know that not all the clinical studies support the use of the PRP therapy. Some of the research even suggests the PRP injections work no better than a placebo treatment. Even for the studies that show evidence that the therapy works, not all the patient’s benefit.
And while many studies show that the PRP is low risk, there is a report about certain patient symptoms worsened after the PRP injection. Although to some, the therapy works, but not for everyone. Most of the specialists do not consider the treatment as a stand-alone treatment. The PRP injections are one of the elements in a multi-faceted rehabilitation plan that may also include:
- Rest from painful tasks
- Heat or cold therapy
- Electrical muscle stimulation
- Strengthening, especially in eccentric exercises
General guidelines for rehabilitation after a PRP injection occur, and may also vary depending on the condition. Commonly, this treatment is done under the supervision of a professional therapist or a licensed athletic trainer.
While PRP is a promising treatment for those who are experiencing muscle injuries, hair loss or tissue damage, research studies are still needed to prove the effectiveness of the therapy. With larger studies, doctors could identify the injection dose and routine that works for treating injuries. Also, further studies could help doctors identify the symptoms to exclude from the injection. Today, Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy remains to be controversy and is not covered by any medical insurance for which people are required to pay for themselves.