One of the most exciting advances in health and wellness has been the use of regenerative medicine for therapeutic treatments. In particular, an innovation called “platelet-rich plasma” therapy, or PRP, is delivering dramatic healing benefits for people with joint pain, and it’s done without invasive surgery. The experts at Orchidia Medical Group in Naples, FL are pleased to offer PRP for joint pain.
What Is PRP Therapy?
PRP is a breakthrough therapy for joint pain and many other medical applications. In PRP therapy, a small amount of the patient’s blood is drawn from the body and then spun in a high-speed centrifuge. This separates the blood’s components so the clinician can make a concentrated cocktail that’s re-injected back into the body, directly into the area where treatment is wanted.
The human body has many natural agents for repairing damage to skin, cartilage, tendons and other tissues. But many areas in the body, such as knee and shoulder joints, are difficult for these agents to reach. Moreover, the body doesn’t necessarily see worn, aged tissue as anything abnormal in people of a certain age. Therefore, the body doesn’t send the repair agents and people live with painful joints.
Body, Heal Thyself
The concept behind PRP for joint pain is to spur the body’s own healing abilities in focused ways to achieve desired results. When the growth agents from PRP arrive at the location of worn or damaged tissue, they begin to build fresh new tissue in its place. PRP therapy has been used everywhere from arthritic regions to severe joint injuries with remarkable success. An injection takes the place of invasive surgery, and the treatment takes just about half an hour.
The Science Behind PRP
Blood is an incredibly sophisticated substance made up of multiple building blocks and nutrients. Among the most important components are plasma, or the liquid portion; red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body; white blood cells, which fight off infection; and the stars of PRP therapy, platelets.
Platelets are tiny blood cells that help the body form clots to stop bleeding in a process called coagulation. When a blood vessel in the body gets damaged, it sends out signals to the platelets for help. The platelets speed to the site of damage and plug (clot) the bleeding so that further damage is minimized. Then they lay down a physical foundation for the tissue to heal.
In addition to pre-empting further damage, platelets also send out chemical signals to attract more platelets. These reinforcements have sticky tentacles and pile onto the other sticky platelets in a process called aggregation. Once further damage has been stopped by the platelets, something even marvelous happens from these tiny cells. They begin to grow fresh new tissue to repair the damage. Researchers have identified more than 30 “growth factors” that platelets use to build new tissue. Some of the most important ones include:
Platelet-Derived Growth Factor (PDGF)
The primary role of this agent is to encourage the growth of blood vessels within the body. Known as angiogenesis, this process uses cells from existing blood vessels to create new blood vessel tissue.
Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF)
This growth agent contributes to wound healing. It encourages the production and differentiation of different kinds of cells for tissue-specific purposes.
Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)
EGF is a growth factor that has been discovered in various sorts of human tissue. It stimulates cell growth in terms of both overall numbers and specific differentiation (types of cells).
Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)
This growth factor is involved in generating muscle tissue and bypassing blocked blood vessels.
These are just a few of the natural growth factors that stimulate the regeneration of tissue when you receive PRP for joint pain.
Who Can Benefit From PRP Therapy?
Many people lead active lives. Running, hiking and climbing are popular activities, as are tennis, golf, basketball and other team sports. These activities provide enjoyment and wellness, but they can also do damage over the long run to fragile body regions.
Runners and hikers, for example, endure unnatural stress on their knees and ankles. These forces not only create injury risk, but over the long haul they cause excessive wear that can cause pain for a lifetime. Golfing can be hazardous to the shoulder’s rotator cuff. Tennis elbow is an injury that speaks for itself. Even when direct injuries have been avoided, the lasting effects of sporting activities on the body can often be felt years later.
More Than Sports Medicine
Pain from joint, muscle or cartilage wear is by no means limited to athletes. As we age, diseases such as arthritis, tendonitis and osteoporosis become commonplace. Old injuries from our younger days that once weren’t bothersome increasingly become a problem. Over the years, scar tissue can form around these injuries. This can cause pain and other complications that eventually need to be addressed.
Young or old, active or easygoing, injuries and pains do happen. PRP therapy can help people of any age and lifestyle live with less pain and quickly get back to living the lives they want to lead. PRP therapy does this in short, convenient sessions that avoid surgery and speed recovery.
PRP for Joint Pain
As people who suffer with it know all too well, joint pain comes in many varieties. One common example is tendinitis. This is an inflammation, degeneration, or injury to a tendon, which is the structure in your body that connects muscle to bone. Tendinitis can lead to breakdown of the collagen fibers that make up the tendon. This results in chronic pain that’s usually treated with ice, massage and a good deal of resignation.
Out With the Old
Until PRP therapy, the common treatment for injuries like tendinitis was always a cortisone injection. Cortisone is a steroid that reduces protein metabolism so that inflamed cells that are still degrading are shut down. The result does in fact reduce swelling and pain. Unfortunately, it also reduces activity in normal cells and tissues. Ultimately, it leads to weakening of the tissues.
Rather than work to actively heal the damaged tissue, a cortisone injection only serves to mask the damage. By continuing daily activities without the pain to warn your body that something’s wrong, further injury is an inevitable risk. Instead of getting better, the pain-relieving cortisone shot can actually make you worse off.
In With the New
The administration of PRP for joint pain goes to the root of the problem. The platelets flock to smooth over the damage, and their growth agents immediately begin the process of regenerating fresh tissue in its place. The therapy can yield remarkable results for a variety of joint conditions, with no invasive surgical procedures and virtually no recovery time. The damage heals itself naturally, over the course of weeks and several months.
Is There Discomfort During PRP Therapy?
The area to be treated receives a local anesthetic. There’s very little risk or infection or complication from the procedure because the patient is receiving their own blood. Some mild pain, swelling, or discomfort may occur when the procedure is finished, but there is no real downtime for the procedure.
Discomfort from the injection is usually minimal and varies between patients and the area of treatment. Knee, shoulder or elbow joint injections typically produce minor swelling and very little pain. Injections of PRP into muscles or tendons typically cause a bit more discomfort. When the treatment is done, it is important to not irritate the injection site until symptoms subside. Your doctor will advise you on how to care for the joint when you leave the session.
Relief from pain typically becomes noticeable within three to four weeks after the injection. Most symptoms will continue to improve over a period of three to six months following PRP treatment. Pain and discomfort caused by osteoarthritis usually responds faster to PRP therapy than tendon-related pains such as tendonitis or tennis elbow.
How Many PRP Treatments Are Needed?
Results from PRP treatment and expected recovery times vary. Both depend on the extent of the injury, the amount of restoration needed, and the individual patient. PRP treatments often yield faster, better results than conventional physical therapy without PRP treatments. This is especially true of ligament damage, which takes the most time to heal and may require multiple injections.
Many patients achieve successful outcomes with only one injection. In some cases, a series of several sessions may be required to attain the needed results. Each treatment will be scheduled several weeks apart. While there is no limit to the number of treatments, most patients will see results by the third treatment.
Even if a patient’s condition requires more than one PRP treatment, there’s usually much less time and effort required for PRP treatments and recovery than invasive surgery. In the vast majority of cases, the PRP patient is able to return to their routines without further interruption.
What Can You Expect During Recovery?
Once the PRP is injected and the session is completed, your doctor will recommend that you rest the affected area. This advice is more a matter of being careful with the treated injury than a response to the actual injections. Most people can continue their daily activities immediately following PRP therapy. Treatment can be completed over the course of a lunch hour.
Because PRP therapy is designed to promote natural healing for the injured area over time, patients may not feel an immediate difference after receiving their treatment. However, over the course of weeks or months, they often observe that the area being treated is healing faster than would have expected without the PRP therapy.
While PRP therapy helps speed the healing process, not all injuries can be treated solely by injection. Significant damages to a joint or muscular region may require physical therapy as part of the healing process. PRP treatments are not a substitute for physical therapy, but they can greatly increase the effectiveness of a physical therapy program. Our doctors will advise you on an appropriate course of rehabilitation to accompany your PRP treatment.
How to Get Started
For people who suffer with joint pain, PRP therapy is a compelling alternative to invasive treatment options. Pain that seemed like something that had to be lived with can finally be sent away for good. PRP joint treatments offer a safe and effective solution that can have you feeling better quickly and living without pain once again.
If you are experiencing the hassle and discomfort of worn, diminished or injured joints, you can benefit from PRP for joint pain. Schedule a consultation with our experts at Orchidia Medical Group in Naples, FL to learn more about this ultra-healing remedy. We look forward to helping you begin your journey to recovery and living without joint pain!