The body’s immune system is capable of amazing things. Our bodies have a natural ability to heal themselves when facing injury or illness. One form of therapy, called Platelet-Rich Plasma injections, or PRP, offers a natural solution to chronic pain caused by injury to joints, ligaments, tendons, soft tissue as well as low back and neck pain.
What are platelets and plasma?
Blood naturally contains platelets, which help to form “fibrin cross-link.” These “fibrin cross-links” create the scaffolding for the body to heal when tissue gets damaged. The platelets also have about 10 different cytokines and growth factors. Cytokines are the body’s smoke signals. These molecules get sent out into our body directing and managing the healing process. The Growth factors, such as VEGF, initiate blood vessel formation, tendon cell stimulation, anti-inflammation among other things to create an environment primed for regeneration.
This concentration of platelets and other blood cells provides a suitable environment for damaged cells to heal and offers the raw materials these cells need to make these repairs. Plasma, which makes up almost half of what we consider “blood”, helps nutrients flow and aids in regeneration. Both platelets and plasma contain proteins that help the body heal.
How does PRP therapy work?
In PRP therapy, a patient’s blood is drawn and put into a centrifuge that separates the platelets from the other components in blood (red and white blood cells, for example). Once the platelets are separated out, they are prepared to be injected into the patient. Using ultrasound or live xray technology, doctors will locate the injury or source of pain and inject the platelets into it. With the increase in concentrated growth factors, the body’s natural healing processes are boosted.
What conditions can PRP help?
PRP therapy has been scientifically proven to help pain emanating from areas of deterioration or injury of soft tissue, ligaments, and cartilage. This includes chronic tendonitis, arthritis, tennis elbow, muscle and ligament injuries, low back pain and many other ailments.
It is also used in some surgeries to speed up the healing process. If the stitches are necessary for the surgery to be successful, some doctors may use stitches that are covered in platelets rather than injections. This allows for a similar phenomenon to happen – the concentration of platelets can speed up the healing process of a tendon that must be sewn up.
Are there side effects to PRP injections?
There are very few side effects reported in PRP therapy. Once the platelets have been injected, it is possible that the patient may experience increased pain for a small period of time after the injections have occurred. This almost always goes away and results in decreased pain over time as the injury heals.
There is a small (less than one percent) chance of infection. Instead of side effects, one of the main deterrents to consider with PRP therapies is the cost. Most insurance companies have not approved PRP therapies, though some insurance plans may provide co-payments depending on the condition being treated.
Compared to other treatments for soft tissue degradation, tendonitis, arthritis, and the myriad of other conditions that PRP can help, the cost is relatively low considering the recovery time and general benefits of receiving treatment over time.
When faced with joint, muscle pain or low back pain there are many options available. There are few options, however, that are natural and don’t involve over-the-counter or even prescription painkillers. PRP is the answer for those who want to avoid medication or costly surgery. The raw materials for PRP come from the patient’s own blood cells and the process of PRP therapy is much less invasive to the body than other available options to treat chronic pain.
In many cases it is more cost-effective than long term treatments and depending on the injury may have a higher success rate. For more information and to discuss potential treatment options, it may be best to consult seasoned medical experts in regenerative therapy.
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