Similar to epidural injections, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are placed directly into the affected area to provide relief. The difference with PRP injections is that the high concentration of platelets also helps with the healing process. Initially popular among professional athletes, PRP injections are being increasingly used by other patients looking to better manage pain from sudden (acute) injuries or chronic pain relegated to a specific area.
What are PRP Injections?
Platelet-rich plasma injections contain more platelets than what’s normally in blood. In addition to helping with the clotting process, platelets contain hundreds of growth factors. These are a special group of proteins that stimulate the growth and repair of tissues.
PRP injections can include as much as 5-10 times as many platelets than what’s normally in blood. It’s believed that plasma that is “richer” in platelets facilitates the healing process.
How Do PRP Injections Work?
PRP injections are prepared from a patient’s own blood so there is no risk of transmissible infection. The blood is centrifuged (spun and separated) to produce a mixture that has a greater concentration of platelets. Combined with a local anesthetic to ease any discomfort from the shot, the injection is placed directly into the affected area.
Injections of platelet-rich plasma speed up the healing process by initiating tissue repair and attracting stem cells (undefined cells) that repair damaged cells in tissues. If injections need to be repeated, the general recommendation is no more than three injections per six-month period.
What Can Be Expected After Receiving a PRP Injection?
Post-injection imaging tests have confirmed that improved tissue healing does take place after PRP injections. It usually takes a few weeks to see noticeable results from PRP injections as the healing process continues. Patients sometimes experience lasting relief if tissues completely heal. With chronic conditions, the injections may make it easier to manage pain without surgery.
When Should PRP Injections Be Considered?
Before PRP injections are considered, a likely source of pain needs to be clearly identified. Even then, PRP injections are usually recommended if other forms of pain management such as hot and cold therapy, physical therapy, and the use of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications aren’t effective.
Factors that usually determine if platelet-rich injections will likely be effective include the location of the injury and the patient’s overall health. PRP injections may be used to ease pain related to a growing number of conditions, including: