PRP therapy is the use of one’s own platelets to provide healing to an area. Was that too simplified? Let me explain. You see, one of the cells floating around in our blood at all times are platelets. Now, most of us familiar with platelets think of them as the cells that help to stop bleeding when there is injury. When you cut yourself, you bleed; platelets rush to the scene to stop the hemorrhaging. Well, it turns out that platelets are so much more than that. Platelets have these growth factors that, when released, do a number of wonderful things. They decrease inflammation, decrease pain, and most importantly cause the recruitment of stem cells to an injured area.
Wait, stem cells? Yes, stem cells. Here’s how it works. Stem cells are like these baby cells in your body. Now I’d love to say that since we’re in America, the stem cells can grow up to be whatever they want to be, but that is not the case with these baby cells. This is a good thing because we need the stem cells to turn into whatever our body needs them to be.
For example, I decide to go out for a ride on my mountain bike, even though my wife tries to discourage me from going because the trails are super slippery after a rainfall. I ultimately fall from my bike, landing on my forearm and cut myself. My platelets rush to the area to stop the bleeding AND release growth factors which will signal to the stem cells to come to where the cut is on my forearm and tells them what to become… new skin! This is how our body is able to regenerate the skin whenever we cut ourselves. The same holds true for just about any tissue in the body. The stem cells have the ability to morph, or differentiate, into the type of cell it is programmed to turn into.
So let’s get back to PRP therapy. So now that you know all about platelets and stem cells, here’s how PRP works. Say you have a tendon problem such as tennis elbow, and the problem has gone on for weeks, months even. What we know is that the tendon is worn and torn and needs attention above and beyond the measures that you’ve taken so far. So, I recommend a PRP injection and we get you set up on the schedule. You come in that day, relax in a comfortable chair, and we draw up 23ml of blood from you, similar to getting blood drawn for a test. We take that blood and put in our super-cool Double Spin Centrifuge machine, which separates the blood into layers. We pull out the layer that is “rich” with platelets (Now you see why we call it Platement Rich Plasma).
An aside: I want to stop for a second and explain something here. I’ve heard of many clinics reporting to perform PRP therapy, but here’s the thing…not all PRP therapy is the same. If you don’t have a super-cool Double-Spin Centrifuge machine, and you just use some crappy old centrifuge from the 90s, then you’re really not doing PRP therapy correctly. The double-spin allows the concentration of platelets to be what’s necessary for the treatment to be effective. Also, if that PRP isn’t what we call Pure PRP also known as Leukocyte Poor PRP, then it likely has some red blood cells in there. Red blood cells can be inflammatory, which means that injection hurts a lot more. We don’t want any of that now do we. I’m glad you agree.
Anyway, so now we have the Pure PRP and we can put that around your tendon. Here’s the cool thing that happens next. When we inject that Pure PRP around your tendon, the growth factors get released as soon as the PRP enters the body causing all the same things that happen when we have a cut or injury. I like to think of it like a homing signal for the stem cells. So, the stem cells get the call to come to the tendon which not only results in healing of the damaged worn and torn tendon, but also causes regeneration of new, healthy tendon, just like the way our skin grows back after we get cut. Cool, huh! Well I think so.
Good question. We know PRP therapy to be very good at healing tendon problems and muscle tears. Here’s a list of some tendon and muscle problems:
It’s also good for other types of tears such as:
There are even some case reports of individuals who have had partially-torn ACL tears that were treated successfully with PRP therapy.
PRP therapy is also very effective for the treatment of Osteoarthritis (mild to moderate) of Knees, Hips, Shoulders, Spine, Elbow, Ankle, and just about anywhere there’s a joint. It can help make sure that people keep their own joints! Finally, we use PRP for spine conditions like degenerative disc disease and other chronic-back problems.
For more information about how PRP therapy might be able to help you, call the Meeting Point Health office at 215.298.9928 (Option 1). You can also schedule a consultation by completing our online contact form at https://www.meetingpointhealth.com/contact-us/.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Stephen Matta, DO, MBA CAQSM and Mary Anne Matta, MS, MA, LAC
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