Many famous athletes, including Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal, have benefited from platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy during the recovery period after injury. PRP therapy can be used in many diseases today. Although it does not work in every disease, it is an important support in the treatment of soft tissue healing. PRP therapy helps the body to heal itself by releasing growth factors.
What Is PRP?
Platelet-rich plasma is plasma obtained by centrifugation of whole blood taken from a vein and contains a higher concentration of platelets than whole blood. It is usually abbreviated as PRP.
PRP contains a large number of growth factors. It is used in the treatment of musculoskeletal system diseases due to its intense growth factors.
Investigations show that the problem in long-term soft tissue pain is not inflammation, but insufficient repair.
PRP contains a high amount of thormbocytes and contains a lot of growth factors and increases tendon and cartilage regeneration by supporting the healing process. By injecting PRP into the area of the disease, the activities of the growth factors in the PRP content in that area are provided at a high level.
PRP is one of the regenerative therapies, the aim is to provide regeneration by activating the body’s repair mechanisms.
Platelets are white blood cells produced in the bone marrow. Platelets can be oval or round shaped, they are the smallest blood cells in our body. They make up 1% of human blood, have no cell nucleus and have 3 different granules in their cytoplasm, mostly alpha, delta and lambda.
Alpha granules contain more than thirty growth factors and bioactive proteins. Platelets are mostly known for their bleeding stopping functions.
Platelets are also a very important element in wound healing, they contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors which are very important in wound healing.
What Is The Purpose Of PRP Treatment?
The goal of PRP therapy is to support the body’s natural healing process and to offer patients a long-term solution. PRP applications are frequently performed in sports rehabilitation, with the aim of speeding up the return to sports and relieving pain.
PRP is not a treatment method that wears off over time. PRP is used in the treatment of many diseases, including joint wear, tendon strain, ligament damage, and osteoarthritis. It is an effective treatment for both reducing pain and making daily activities easier.
PRP is generally not seen as a first-line treatment, but is added to the treatment plan when other treatment methods fail.
How Is PRP Treatment Applied?
In PRP treatment, blood is first taken from the patient. The blood taken from the patient is centrifuged and the platelets are separated and the plasma with high platelet content required for PRP is obtained. In PRP, the platelet content and therefore the concentration of growth factors is 5-10 times higher than normal.
The PRP obtained after centrifugation is injected directly into the soft tissue in the injured area or into the joint. The growth factors released in that area with PRP injection stimulate the cells for the regeneration of the body and increase the regeneration capacity.
PRP injection is a procedure that takes about 1 hour. Most patients can quickly return to their normal activities after PRP injection.
The number of repetitions of PRP application varies according to the disease and the patient. It can be repeated at intervals of 2 to 3 weeks according to the physician’s treatment plan. Generally, three applications are performed in joint calcifications.
With the follow-up of the patient in arthritis, the time of repetition can be decided next year.
Which Conditions Can Be Treated With PRP?
PRP applications are used in the treatment of many cases. It helps to accelerate the healing police sound of injured ligaments, tendons, muscles, joints. Specific conditions in which PRP application is used in treatment are as follows:
- Tendonitis, chronic tendon injuries
- Tennis elbow/ lateral epicondylitis
- Rotator cuff injuries and tears
- Anterior cruciate ligament injuries
- Pelvic pain and instability
- Back and neck pain or injuries
- Ligament and muscle injuries
- Osteoarthritis/calcification of the joint (knee, shoulder, hip, spine)
- Nerve damage and injury
- Back and spine problems
- Muscle tears and injuries
- Wounds that do not heal
Especially in ligament healing, the process can be long. Adding PRP injection to the treatment plan helps faster healing in these tissues and is an attractive treatment.
What Are The Side Effects That Can Be Expected In PRP Injection?
Since PRP is a treatment with one’s own blood, side effects are generally not expected. Since it is applied with its own blood, it is a generally safe application away from the risk of allergic reaction.
However, patients may have temporary complaints such as pain irritation and bleeding around the injection site.
Since there is needle entry into the body, general risks such as infection, bleeding, nerve damage in every application involving injection can also occur in this application. These situations are very rare. There may be risks associated with the condition being treated. These risks are determined after the examination.
What Should Be Considered Before PRP?
Before the PRP treatment session, you should discuss with your physician what you expect from the treatment. You should take the following into consideration before the treatment:
Anti-inflammatory painkillers should be discontinued before PRP. You should consult your doctor about stopping the medications used outside of this.
Especially blood thinners and cortisone-containing drugs may need to be discontinued before treatment. However, it would be correct to discuss this situation with your doctor and decide accordingly.
What Should Be Considered After PRP Treatment?
After PRP therapy, it is recommended to rest on the day of the injection and to limit movement for the next few days, avoiding excessive loading if possible.
This period of partial rest will help to ensure healing in the joint or soft tissues by allowing the injected material to be absorbed by the surrounding soft tissues.
There may be moderate pain or discomfort around the injection site for the first three days after the injection. This is normal and is a sign that your body is starting to heal by adapting to the injection. It is important to drink plenty of water during this time to support healing.
It is not recommended to take any medication unless advised by your doctor during this time, as medications can interfere with the healing process and reduce its effectiveness.
To achieve the best results after PRP injection, it is recommended to avoid anti-inflammatory pain relievers and corticosteroids, except for paracetamol-containing pain relievers, for at least two weeks.
It is also appropriate to avoid blood thinners, vitamins, or supplements for 3-4 days.
It is recommended to avoid ice or heat application to the injection site for the first 72 hours after the procedure, to avoid hot baths or saunas for the first few days after the procedure, to avoid excessive alcohol consumption for the first few weeks, to avoid showering for the first 24 hours after the procedure, to restrict coffee consumption for the first week, and to avoid smoking.
After the first three days, you can gradually increase your daily activities. Exercise can be started during this period. Appropriate exercise is essential for the effectiveness of treatment. You should discuss with your doctor which exercises are appropriate for your condition.
Ice can be applied for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day. If pain is present, paracetamol-containing medications can be used.
Starting physical therapy in the third to fourth weeks after the injection will support your long-term recovery. Even if the treatment is going well, you should stay in touch with your doctor and discuss your treatment plan.
If you experience symptoms such as redness, swelling, heat, or severe pain around the joint after treatment, you should contact your doctor immediately. There is a rare risk of infection developing in the joint or soft tissues after the procedure.
Early diagnosis is very important in the treatment of infection. If there is excessive pain, ice application can be started early.
When Does PRP Take Effect?
The benefits of PRP are not expected to appear immediately. In most patients, improvement (reduction in pain or increase in function) begins within 4-6 weeks. This time period is related to the location of the damaged area and the extent of the damage. In the weeks following the injection, it is recommended to continue regular physiotherapy and to avoid excessive physical activity and overloading the injection site. This will allow the tissues to heal better.