Although it may sound complicated, using platet rich plasma therapy is actually a very simple but controversial method of treating injuries that has gained popularity in the sports world. However, it has many researchers and scientists at odds as to whether or not this particular treatment is actually effective. Platelet rich plasma therapy or PRP is a process in which a sample of an individual's own blood is drawn and placed in a centrifuge that spins the blood at high speeds. This process separates the platelets from the other components of the blood. What you are left with is a highly concentrated platelet rich plasma solution that is injected around and into the injury to jump start the body's own healing and strengthening process. The fact that you are using your own blood means that there is no risk of falling prey to any type of infection from the procedure and it has a very low risk of allergic reaction.
There are many scientists and doctors who believe in this revolutionary new treatment in that it helps to promote long lasting healing of musculoskeletal conditions. It is used for such conditions as osteoarthritis of the knee, hip and spine, shoulder, rotator cuff tears, anterior cruciate ligament injuries or ACL, back and neck injuries, ligament sprains, tendinitis, tennis elbow and ankle sprains. These are among the most common injuries that athletes and other well-to-do exercise buffs may encounter at any given time. Many recreational athletes as well as professional athletes are using PRP treatments to cure everything from back pain to tennis elbow; however it is not a treatment that is inexpensive. In fact the procedure of withdrawing the blood, concentrating it in the centrifuge and injecting it into the area of injury can cost as much as $1000 a shot. What's more, everyone is not in agreement as to whether PRP therapy is as effective as many are saying it is. In fact a new study that will soon be published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine differs as to whether or not this procedure is effective.
During one such study, scientists treated people who were suffering from tennis elbow with PRP injections and others with whole blood injections. Whole blood contains fewer growth factors than PRP blood so in theory, the injections of whole blood should not be as effective in treating injuries as PRP injections. What the scientists found in this study is that the whole blood turned out to be just as effective as treating the tennis elbow injuries after three months of treatments as did the PRP therapy. In fact the study goes on to show that the whole blood treatments were even more effective at six months than they were at three months. The volunteers in the study all stated that both treatments were effective in reducing pain. However at the end of the study, scientists revealed that the lower concentration of platelets and growth factors contained in whole blood was better at treating the injuries.
This study falls in line with another that was conducted by the British Journal of Sports Medicine for treatment of Achilles tendon injuries and overuse. For this study scientist injected a PRP solution in some patients and a saline solution in others. What they found was that six months later the results were the same for those that were injected with the PRP or the saline solution. Scientists concluded that if salt water could work just as good as a PRP solution then they see no evidence that the use of platelet rich plasma injections in Achilles tendinopathy injuries is effective.
This has led researchers scrambling to figure out why many people have praised the use of PRP therapy while they saw see no scientific evidence that this treatment is effective. One reason that researchers who were involved in the Achilles tendon injuries study give for the results of that study were the differences between overuse injuries and injuries such as tendinopathies. It may be that PRP treatments are not as effective in overuse injuries as it is in other types of injuries. However they go on to state that this is only a theory and more work on the basic PRP therapy treatment is going to be needed and that people should use caution when trying it.
What does all this mean for the average individual who may have an injury due to sports in their ankle, elbows, knees or shoulder muscles? Researchers believe that using the standard treatments available today should be your first choice for these types of injuries. Physical therapy and other current treatment options are much less expensive and have a proven track record of being effective. PRP injections are painful and should only be used when all other courses of action have been exhausted and were found to be ineffective.