The human body has powerful, built-in abilities to heal itself from injuries and wear. Today, medicine can harness and focus these healing powers to provide faster, more effective recoveries. PRP injections by Phoenix Regenerative Medicine in Tempe, AZ can help your body repair its own injuries, quickly and naturally, without invasive procedures.
What Is PRP Therapy?
PRP stands for Platelet Rich Plasma. Plasma is the liquid part of the blood that carries cells and proteins throughout the body. Platelets are tiny blood cells that act as “first-responders” when tissues become injured. Platelets start by clotting the bleeding, which prevents further damage to the area. They then attract other blood cells to prevent infection and repair the injury.
Platelets include natural growth factors and proteins that stimulate cell growth and regeneration. PRP therapy delivers a concentrated dose of your body’s own platelets and nutrients directly onto the injured or worn area that needs treatment. By targeting the affected area with the body’s natural repair agents, many injuries can be healed by themselves, without larger medical steps.
Who Can Benefit From PRP Injections?
PRP therapy was first popularized through professional sports medicine. Athletes who needed to recover from injuries as quickly as possible were the first successes. Thanks to PRP therapy, many sports surgeries can now be avoided, along with their lengthy recovery times. Even when surgery wasn’t called for, injured athletes treated with PRP heal faster than those without.
Many of us lead an active life of physical fitness and recreation. Running, hiking and climbing are popular activities, as are tennis, golf, basketball and other team sports. These activities bring us 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 also 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.
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 gradually 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 your recovery. Best of all, PRP therapy is like “green” medicine. It uses your own body’s tools to repair itself.
What Happens During PRP Treatment?
PRP injections are a minimally invasive treatment given in the comfort of our office. The treatment takes approximately one hour, though the injection itself typically takes less than ten minutes. The treatment begins by drawing a small amount of your blood, usually less than two ounces. The blood is placed into a centrifuge system for 30-45 minutes. This special purpose, FDA-approved machine separates the wanted platelets and other substances used for your PRP treatment.
The platelets are then injected directly into the injured or diseased body tissue. Ultrasound imaging may be used by one of our doctors to guide the precise injection point. The injected PRP immediately begins to stimulate your body’s own growth agents directly at the affected area. The PRP treatment bypasses any scar tissue or swelling surrounding the injured or worn tissue.
Is There Discomfort During PRP Therapy?
Your doctor will numb the treatment area with a local anesthetic. Patients should expect mild discomfort but no pain during the procedure. There’s very little risk or infection or complication from the procedure because you are receiving your own blood. Some mild pain, swelling, or discomfort may occur when the procedure is finished, but there is no set 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.
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 a PRP injection. Pain and discomfort caused by osteoarthritis usually respond 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 will vary. Both depend on the extent of the injury, the extent of restoration needed, and the individual patient. PRP has been used with notable success on tendons, ligaments and muscles.
PRP treatments on these areas 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. Our experts will formulate a plan with you to treat your specific condition effectively, whether for a single session or over several visits.
Many patients achieve successful outcomes with only one injection. In some cases, a series of several injections may be required to attain the desired results. Each treatment will be scheduled several weeks apart. While there is no limit to the number of treatments you can have, most patients that will respond to the injections see results by the third treatment.
Recently, PRP injections have been used as a way to regenerate hair growth at the scalp for both male and female hair loss. These treatments are particularly successful with people who have just begun to experience hair loss. In these cases, PRP therapy has been shown to slow hair shedding and promote new hair growth. PRP therapy for hair loss can be ongoing, with treatments every few months to maintain the desired results.
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.
Who Uses PRP Therapy?
Because it can safely treat such a wide variety of conditions, PRP therapy has attracted a wide range of famous people who now evangelize for this life-changing procedure. The first celebrity to rave about its effects was basketball star Kobe Bryant. Chronic arthritic knee pain had nearly forced him into early retirement, but after PRP treatments, the future Hall of Famer was able to play at an elite level even at the ripe old age of 34.
Star golfer Tiger Woods is also a believer in PRP therapy. Woods suffered a serious injury to his ACL, one of the key ligaments of the knee. The expected recovery time was pegged at nine months: a long time for a player at his level to be missing from competition. Within a year of choosing PRP therapy, the golf legend had won Player of the Year, PGA Player of the year, and had earned a top 10 spot in 14 tournaments.
PRP cosmetic treatments have also become popular among people who need to quickly improve their looks without invasive, time-consuming plastic surgery. Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie has used cosmetic PRP treatments to smooth her complexion and boost natural collagen. Perhaps most famously, Kim Kardashian popularized the PRP-driven “vampire facial” on her TV show. The treatment uses PRP in combination with microneedling, a technique that smooths facial lines and wrinkles and promotes collagen production.
How to Prepare For a PRP Therapy Session
Your doctor will advise you to stop taking certain medications prior to your PRP therapy. You will likely be asked to discontinue anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen for one week prior to your PRP appointment. You should also avoid corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, for 2 to 3 weeks prior to the procedure. Discuss these and your other medications with our regenerative medicine experts.
Patients should drink plenty of fluids the day before the procedure. While the procedure itself is usually painless, with only mild discomfort, some patients may require anti-anxiety medication immediately before the procedure.
After the procedure is done, you’ll be asked to keep the site of the PRP treatment clean and dry. Leave any bandage on for 12 to 24 hours and then replace the bandage with a Band-Aid until the site heals. Do not use ice on the PRP site because ice reduces swelling. The therapy is meant to cause swelling, which helps you heal. You may experience some swelling and bruising for three to seven days after your treatment. Tylenol is recommended for these discomforts. Your doctor will advise you regarding post-treatment medications.
Let Us Help You Heal Yourself
PRP injections are a compelling alternative to surgeries and invasive treatment options. They can also spare you the hassle of extended physical therapy or excessive medication use. However, the best way to ensure that PRP is the right option to treat your injury is to schedule a consultation with our experts at Phoenix, Regenerative Medicine in Tempe, AZ. Your consultation with us will help establish the right plan for you and your goals.