PRPs (platelet-rich plasma) injections are often recommended for patients who suffer from chronic injuries or arthritis pain. Are they really effective?
Platelets are tiny blood cells that play a significant role in clotting. The platelets have growth factors in them that facilitate quicker healing. When injected into damaged tissue, platelets release these growth factors to stimulate new cell growth. This helps repair damaged tissues and relieve pain.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections are becoming increasingly popular for treating sports injuries, joint pain, tendonitis, and other conditions. The procedure involves drawing blood from the patient and then spinning it at high speeds to separate the platelets. These platelets are then re-injected back into the injured area.
It sounds simple enough, but there’s still much debate about how this type of treatment can be beneficial.
How Does PRP Help Sports Injuries?
It is widely accepted that PRP treatments improve recovery rates following specific types of injury. One study found that people suffering from lateral collateral ligament tears in their knees had better outcomes when receiving a PRP injection than those undergoing traditional physical therapy. A second study demonstrated that Achilles tendon repairs performed by surgeons using sutures alone could result in inferior healing if compared with surgeries where PRP was used.
In addition, one study showed that PRP injections were more effective than standard acupuncture procedures at relieving lower back pain among pregnant women. Another study has shown that PRP injections can significantly reduce the number of strokes you experience while playing tennis. And in another case, researchers report that PRP injections effectively alleviate symptoms related to nerve damage caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.
However, some studies suggest that PRP injections do not always produce better results than conventional methods. For instance, a recent clinical trial involving 45 runners found no significant difference between groups who received either PRP or saline injections when rehabilitating calf muscles.
So, does it actually work? There’s still much debate over how good PRP injections are. Many experts say that it’s more of a placebo effect than actual medical treatment. Still, others claim that it works just as well or sometimes even better. Whether it’s effective for you depends on several factors, including where you get your PRP shot, what kind of injury you’re dealing with, whether you need immediate recovery, etc.
Where Can I Get My Platelet Rich Plasma Injection?
The most commonly used form of PRP injection is obtained from collecting blood through a needle from the inside of a vein. This allows the doctor to get a large volume of blood; however, many believe that the amount of blood collected isn’t as important as how it is spun.
Some physicians recommend having your PRP shot done with a total body magnetic field therapy device. Others claim that this technique produces larger amounts of concentrated platelets. Still, critics contend that such devices don’t appear to offer any additional benefit. They add that evidence doesn’t support claims that magnetic fields enhance the efficiency of PRP injections.
What Can Platelet-Rich Plasma Treat?
There are two main areas where PRP injections are often used — sports injuries and wound healing. However, some people also use them to promote hair growth and fight signs of aging.
Sporting Injury & Wound Healing
One of the best-known uses of PRP injections is to aid in the rehabilitation of injured muscle tissues. Several studies show that PRP injections increase athletic performance by increasing tissue production, improving circulation, and promoting faster healing time. Specifically, scientists claim that these injections can speed up the regeneration process for torn tendons.
When combined with conventional techniques, they can help people recovering from injuries — whether they’re sports injuries or work-related strains and tears.
Another popular application of PRP injections involves the treatment of sprains and strains. A 2009 study of 30 patients with chronic ankle instability showed that PRP infusions produced quicker recoveries than traditional physical therapies. Researchers concluded that PRP could be considered a viable alternative to surgical intervention.
Moreover, a 2016 study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine found that PRP injections helped improve knee function and stability following anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery. Those who got PRP injections had much less swelling during their first few days after surgery.
Still, according to one recent review, no solid clinical data supports the use of PRP injections to treat athletic injuries. For example, a 2010 meta-analysis conducted at the University of Liverpool didn’t find significant differences between PRP and other kinds of treatments.
Cosmetic Procedures to Fight Signs of Aging
Platelet-rich plasma has also been touted as a potential solution for sagging skin and wrinkles. The theory behind it is that platelets contain high levels of collagen. Therefore, researchers speculate that administering PRP might boost collagen formation and cause the skin to look younger.
But a 2017 review conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration looked into whether PRP was effective when applied topically. It concluded that more research needs to be done in regards to PRP being a better alternative to non-invasive wrinkle treatments.
So far, no large-scale studies have shown conclusive results to back up its effectiveness. For instance, a 2013 randomized controlled trial published in Plastic Surgery International had mixed findings:
The participants reported significantly smaller improvements with a single injection of PRP versus saline. Yet another test conducted by the same group later found that multiple injections had more significant effects than a single dose.
How Often Do PRP Injections Need to Be Administered?
There are different opinions regarding the number of times you could have PRP therapy. Many people suggest that patients undergo two to three sessions for maximum benefits. Others say one session is sufficient if you follow proper guidelines.
It also depends on your lifestyle and habits. If you smoke cigarettes, refrain from doing so for at least eight hours before the procedure. Smoking also affects the clotting cascade. Therefore, avoiding it will ensure your PRP therapy works appropriately.
Before Receiving Your PRP, You Need to Put the Following in Mind
Before your visit, make sure you know the cost upfront. The price ranges widely depending on where you live and how many sessions you will get. On average, most clinics charge around $500-$1500. And some offer discounts to seniors and military personnel.
Always discuss any side effects with your doctor before undergoing this type of treatment. If you have bleeding tendencies or experience bruising easily, do not proceed with the treatment. Your platelets should only be released and activated within specific parameters as well. Thus, they must be handled cautiously.
You need to stop using any medication that leads to blood-thinning, such as aspirin. The drug can interfere with the platelets’ ability to form clots. Likewise, people with diabetes are not eligible for this type of treatment because their platelets function differently. As a result, they cannot produce enough growth factors.
Another critical thing to note is that if you have recently received a blood transfusion, wait until a week before the appointment to receive the shot since the platelets from your last donation would still remain in your circulation. Vitamins or supplements should not be used instead of taking antiplatelet medications. They could further complicate your condition and thus hinder the efficacy of the treatment.
Finally, try to keep yourself hydrated. Giving the body at least 8 cups of water daily is an excellent move towards getting rid of toxins in the body. This helps flush out all the toxins accumulated, especially during the day. Ideally, drinking plenty of water throughout the day ensures that there won’t be much in your system to react with the injected substances. Drinking alcohol before having a procedure like PRP will also reduce its effectiveness.