What do Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, and Hines Ward all have in common? Aside from being standout athletes in their respective sports, they’ve all taken advantage of the healing powers of platelet-rich plasma (PRP), a therapy that a growing number of professional athletes are using to speed recovery from injuries and keep them on top of their game. PRP treatment relieves pain and facilitates healing from sprains, strains, and other types of acute and repetitive motion injuries, as well as arthritis and degenerative disc disease.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a sports superstar to benefit from this safe, effective treatment. It’s available right now at the Whitaker Wellness Institute and a handful of other clinics in the US.
The Power of Platelets
The concept behind PRP treatment is simple. Platelets are components in the blood that initiate and regulate wound healing. PRP delivers concentrations of the body’s own platelets directly to damaged or degenerated tissues.
Under normal circumstances, platelets circulate through the bloodstream in their inactivated state. But when they encounter an injury such as a torn tendon or damaged joint, a cut or scrape, or a lesion inside a blood vessel or internal organ, they get down to business. They adhere to molecules at breaks in the endothelium (lining of the blood vessels) and release a plethora of proteins, peptides, and other compounds. These include clotting factors to stop bleeding; inflammatory chemicals to drive the acute phase of the healing process; and growth factors to promote tissue regeneration and the formation of blood vessels that nourish new tissues.
Harnessing the power of platelets is not new. PRP treatment has been around for decades and is the subject of nearly 8,000 scientific papers. Various PRP preparations have been used to enhance the healing of bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and surgical wounds, and this therapy has been enthusiastically adopted by orthopedic, plastic, periodontal, and maxillofacial surgeons. Now, due primarily to its growing popularity with pro athletes, PRP treatment is finally coming into its own as a minimally invasive therapy for musculoskeletal injuries and degenerative joint and disc disease.
ABCs of PRP Treatment
A typical PRP treatment involves removing a vial of a patient’s own blood and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate out the red blood cells, plasma, and other components. You end up with a very small amount of concentrated platelets—5–10 times the amount in whole blood—in a little plasma (the clear, liquid part of blood); hence the name platelet-rich plasma, PRP.
The patient’s PRP is placed in a syringe and injected into the affected area, which is numbed beforehand to make the injection more comfortable. A single injection is the norm, although two or more, spaced out at least a month apart, may be required. Then you wait. PRP treatment is not an immediate fix. As I explained above, it simply amplifies your body’s natural healing mechanisms, and the regeneration process it initiates can take weeks to months. Over time, however, remarkable things happen.
“PRP Treatment Is Amazing!”
One of our first patients to receive PRP treatment was Jim, a young man who had injured his ankle while wrestling. The torn ligaments were so painful and unstable that he was barely able to hobble around. Within two weeks of undergoing PRP treatment, he was able to resume running and now reports a complete recovery.
Ed Slaska, a patient from New Jersey, has pain in his knees that he attributes to “old joints.” He had been treated with prolotherapy with good results, but after several months, his symptoms returned. When his doctor suggested PRP treatment at his most recent visit, he decided to give it a try. A week after treatment, his knee was 95 percent better, and he now goes up and down stairs without difficulty.
Christine has a long history of chronic neck and back pain. The back pain was unpleasant, but the pain in her neck, caused by a herniated disc, was “excruciating and debilitating.” It spread into her left shoulder and arm, interfered with the use of her left arm, and kept her up at night. When cortisol injections, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, and other therapies provided little relief, her physician recommended surgery. However, previous surgery on her lower back had not gone well—she had an adverse reaction to anesthesia—and Christine was understandably reluctant to go through that again. So she came to see us at the clinic.
Because Christine’s problems involved several areas of her spine, she received multiple PRP injections. At first, she had her doubts about PRP treatment. She had to travel shortly after being treated, and prolonged sitting and overexertion caused some discomfort. A couple of weeks later, however, she began to notice improvements, and five weeks post-treatment, Christine was a believer. “I am so grateful to have found PRP. The pain is almost gone, I now have full use of my left arm, and I had forgotten how wonderful it is to get a good night’s sleep. My energy and vitality are back. PRP treatment is amazing!”
PRP Treatment: A Bright Future
I see a bright future for PRP treatment. First, it’s exceptionally safe. Because platelet-rich plasma is an “autologous” procedure, meaning it’s derived or transferred from the patient’s own body, there’s no danger of an adverse reaction to a foreign substance. It simply harnesses your own platelets for healing and regeneration.
Second, PRP treatment can be combined with other promising regenerative therapies such as autologous adipose (fat)-derived stem cells, which we also use successfully at the clinic. (To learn more, visit www.nbstemcell.com.)
Third, PRP treatment, which is done in a doctor’s office, is quick and minimally invasive, requires no recovery time, and costs a fraction of the price of any surgical procedure. The graying of the Baby Boomers, coupled with our epidemic of obesity, has dramatically increased the burden of osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. If something as simple and economical as PRP treatment can, as studies show, help reduce this burden by delivering growth factors that help repair damaged tissues, relieve pain, and restore function, surely it has a chance of being adopted by mainstream medicine.
Where to Get PRP Treatment
If you have a slow-healing musculoskeletal injury, arthritis, or neck/back pain, check out platelet-rich plasma therapy.
I suggest searching the Internet to find a doctor in your area who offers this therapy. (Be aware that many insurers do not currently cover PRP treatment so you may have to pay out of pocket.) For information on receiving PRP treatment at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call 866-944-8253 or visit whitakerwellness.com.