Just before making a re-appearance at The Masters in 2010, Tiger Woods admitted in a press conference that he had undergone Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) therapy in order to facilitate the healing process and aid with recovery for overuse injuries he had sustained throughout his preparation and career as a golfer. Woods had previously denied ever utilizing “any illegal drug” or human growth hormone throughout his career, but many skeptics still raised their brows at his admittance to this mystery “PRP” therapy he had received. After taking a closer look at what PRP therapy entails, as well as its benefits and indications, we’ll let you be the judge of whether one’s own body can be utilized as a therapeutic method to heal itself.
Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) is a new treatment method for a variety of musculoskeletal problems. Originally, PRP was used in maxilla-facial and plastic surgery in the 1990’s to aid with healing after surgery, although it wasn’t widely used because the equipment could cost up to $40,000. PRP didn’t transition into the realm of orthopedics until the early 2000’s and has since become more affordable for physicians and patients. It has continued to increase in popularity with the above-mentioned athlete, Tiger Woods, as well as Takashi Saito sharing their success stories.
Human blood contains a liquid called plasma, as well as solid matter including red cells, white cells, and platelets. The purpose of the platelets in blood is for clotting wounds. Platelets also contain growth factors which also help with recovery and aid in the healing process for wounds and injuries. To create a PRP injection, blood is drawn from the patient and put into a centrifuge so the platelets can be separated and stored. Once the platelets have been removed, the mixture is then injected back into the patient. Some physicians use ultrasound to guide the injection into the site as well as at follow ups to monitor progress and tissue regeneration.
So, why does it work?
The theory behind PRP is the concentrated amount of growth factor can potentially increase the healing time. Growth factors are concentrated 3-5 times more in PRP than in a normal blood injection. It is recommended that patients do not use anti-inflammatories while having PRP treatment because medications like Advil decrease the inflammatory response and, in turn, inhibit healing. A mixture of PRP and local anesthetic is injected into an injured area (such as Tiger Wood’s elbow after an overuse injury occurs). It is often noted that the pain to the area may increase initially before tissue generation and healing begins.
Where can I use it?
There are a variety of conditions treated with PRP. PRP is the most effective treatment of chronic tendon injuries such as tennis elbow or chronic Achilles tendonitis. Additionally, PRP is used to treat acute ligament and muscle injuries, especially in athletes, arthritis, and recovery after surgery. There is still limited research on the effectiveness of PRP injections, resulting in few insurance companies willing to cover the experimental procedure. Most physicians that use PRP as treatment charge between $500-$1000. Because the treatment is developed from a patient’s own blood the treatment is considered low-risk for a treatment option.