When you were a child, movement was easy. It didn’t register as “exercise”; instead it was playing tag, swinging between the monkey bars, or dance parties with friends. Unfortunately, somewhere within the transition from childhood to adulthood, movement becomes a little harder. One commonly cited reason for this is that as we age, our bodies don’t work as they did when we were younger. Joints become stiffer and inflexible, and we acquire lingering injuries. For years, we accepted this as the circle of life. However, recent, exciting developments in the world of medicine are revealing new ways for your body to begin healing itself. One of these exciting treatments gaining popularity is called PRP- or Platelet Rich Plasma.
What is PRP?
PRP is an exciting form of regenerative medicine based on your body’s incredible capacity to mend itself. Essentially, PRP harnesses this ability and uses injections of the patient’s platelets to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints. Further, many studies have demonstrated the benefits of PRP to the musculoskeletal system by reducing pain and improving function.
While blood is mainly a liquid (plasma), it contains critical healing components, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Platelets are known for their importance in clotting, but they also contain potent growth factors necessary to heal injuries. PRP works by extracting a small amount of blood and separating and concentrating the plasma with platelets. Then, this platelet-rich plasma is injected back into your body at the site of injury or pain. From there, the platelets get to work, reducing inflammation and restoring you to normal function. Even better, because PRP utilizes the patient’s own plasma, side effects are minimal, and it can be coupled with other therapies within the same session. At Case Integrative Health, we are experimenting with combining PRP and prolozone to amplify the regenerative results in a joint.
How Does it Work?
You may have heard of celebrities, like Tiger Woods, receiving PRP for sports injuries- however, the treatment isn’t just for professional athletes. PRP is a powerful, emerging therapy that originated as an offshoot to stem cell therapy research. Stem cells are the “generic” cell in the body that transforms into whatever they need to, like nerves, bone, muscle, organ, etc. The belief is that by injecting these stem cells into a troubled area, we can stimulate the regrowth of a damaged area. PRP therapy works based on this concept. New research shows that stem cells may not be necessary to trigger regeneration; the material your body needs to trigger a response is already carried in your own blood! Essentially, the theory is that by injecting an injury site with plasma containing a higher concentration of growth factors, we can speed up the healing process.
Additionally, research into PRP has shown that this type of therapy can be as effective as surgery at decreasing pain and increasing joint mobility. If you’re moving down a path toward joint replacement, I encourage you to get educated on this as a potential alternative.
The Future of Medicine
Currently, one of the most popular treatments for musculoskeletal injuries is a steroid, or cortisol, shot. However, emerging research demonstrates that steroids can inhibit wound healing - actually slowing your body’s natural repair process. Additionally, there is a pronounced possibility of immunosuppression with long-term steroid use. Obviously, new pain management therapies are needed. PRP is a wonderful option. It has a wide range of applications, from old to recent injuries, osteoarthritis- and even hair regrowth! Plus, it’s minimally invasive and extremely well tolerated. Before scheduling another appointment for a cortisol shot, I’d advise you to make an appointment to discuss PRP. Allow your body to heal itself!