26 Jul Treating injuries with Platelet Rich Plasma (“PRP”)
There’s a good chance you’ve heard about Platelet Rich Plasma injections, also known as “PRP”. Perhaps you know someone who’s had one or more injections, or perhaps, like me, you’ve already tried and hopefully benefited from this form of treatment yourself.
Platelet Rich Plasma injections appear to be useful in treating injuries that are slow to heal or where one hopes to speed up the healing process. Maybe you’ve got a muscle, ligament, or tendon injury that is slow to heal or doesn’t seem to heal completely. Maybe you’ve got some chronic injuries that you put up with, but that are keeping you from the activities you enjoy.
Platelet Rich Plasma injections involve withdrawing a small amount of a patient’s blood. The blood is then processed in a special centrifuge, which separates it into various components. One of the components, PRP, contains a high concentration of blood platelets, and as a result, a high concentration of growth factors. The PRP is then injected directly into the damaged tissue.
Our bodies can do an incredible job of healing many injuries, particularly when youth is on-side. I can remember multiple injuries incurred as a child or teen, which always seemed to heal both quickly and completely. As an adult however, my active lifestyle (which has included regular workouts, running, cycling, sports, and teaching fitness classes for over 30 years) has put me at increased risk of injuries… some of which have been slow to heal, haven’t healed as well as I would have liked, tend to reoccur, or that I just put up with. When injured, I usually go the route most of us go – relying on rest, heat/ice, short-term pain relief, physiotherapy, specific exercises, massage, and a gradual return to activity. There have been times however, that these important measures haven’t done the trick, and that I’ve gone looking for other options… which have included Shockwave therapy and acupuncture.
Several years ago, a friend sustained a hamstring tear while running. Training for a marathon, the timing was terrible (is there ever a good time for an injury?) but she pushed on and actually crossed the finish line, her hamstring more sore than ever. After a reasonable period of rest and rehabilitation, she was unhappy with what amounted to ongoing pain, and decided to try a PRP injection followed by more rehabilitation. It seemed to work, and within a short time she was back to running pain-free. It wasn’t long after, that I tore a ligament. Determined to give my body time to heal, and in too much pain to exercise, I wore a brace and waited months, only to have imaging show that little-to-no healing had taken place. I decided to take action, contacted the same sports medicine physician my friend had met with, and had a PRP injection. Eight weeks later, imaging showed that my 1 cm tear had completely healed. The best part was that my pain was gone and I was cleared to begin some rehab and a gradual return to activity.
A few months ago I sustained an adductor injury… a stretch injury. The injury wasn’t all that surprising as I’ve got some tendinopathy in this important muscle group which probably predisposed me to this latest tear. Once again, determined to give my body time to heal, I rested, went to physio, did some gentle strengthening, used heat and ice, moved my exercise routine into the pool, and waited optimistically. Over an almost three-month period, there has been some improvement, but not the kind my younger self might have experienced. I booked an appointment with Dr. Douglas Stoddard at SEMI whom I’ve consulted with before, and after a thorough consultation, decided to try PRP injections to try to expedite healing and perhaps wind up with a better overall result.
Dr. Stoddard did my first PRP injection this morning, his steady and experienced hand quickly identifying the area of injury using ultrasound, as he and a nurse calmly walked me through each step of the procedure. I walked out with little discomfort, one small Band-aid covering the area treated, some simple post-procedure instructions, and a date for my second injection just over a week from now. In a few days, I’ll return to some gentle exercise to encourage range of motion, the hope being that the injury will heal faster and more thoroughly, and that I’ll be able to make a gradual return to the activities I enjoy. In the meantime, with no need for a brace or crutches or even acetaminophen, I’m not receiving any of the special treatment at work or at home (i.e. no flowers, no dark chocolate, no meals brought on silver trays, etc.) that I had hoped I might.
These injections are relatively straightforward and low risk. It’s still unclear as to how exactly PRP seems to help us heal. Is it the minor re-injury with a needle? Is it the delivery of a high concentration of growth factors to areas with poor blood supply? Is it some combination? While it would be nice to know more, the anecdotal evidence of people who have undergone this form of treatment, so often speaks for itself. A few months from now, we’ll go on a search mission using ultrasound, to check on my injury and its progress. Hopefully it will have healed or be well on its way. But most importantly, I’ll be gauging my own progress as I move through treatment and rehabilitation based on how I feel. Here’s hoping I’ll be back on a spin bike giving it everything I’ve got this fall, and cranking out some good runs on the treadmill over the winter months. For a recent CBC article about PRP, and how it is not classified as a drug, but rather a treatment, please click here. You an also click here to view a video featuring Dr. Stoddard from SEMI that explains PRP injections in detail.
If you’ve been injured or are slow to heal, don’t give up. Even if your injuries are chronic and seem resistant to healing, don’t give up. Remain optimistic, explore your options, talk to our medical team at DeerFields, and appreciate all the progress you make, even the baby steps.
NOTE: DeerFields and SEMI are not affiliated. I did however, want to share my experience with PRP injections with the hope of encouraging others to explore all of their options, including PRP, when dealing with injuries.