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It sounds like a medical treatment from the distant future. A doctor takes a sample of your blood, concentrates it in a centrifuge, and then injects it back into your body to promote healing and stimulate new cell growth. Is this something out of a science fiction novel? No. It’s a PRP injection and it’s a treatment we offer at CORE Medical & Wellness.
Here’s everything you need to know about getting PRP injections.
What does PRP mean?
PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma.
Blood is comprised of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. You probably remember from elementary school science class that red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body and white blood cells fight infection. Platelets are the component that causes blood to clot when we are injured. This clotting ability comes from the proteins in platelets, called growth factors. These factors also support the growth of new cells.
Platelet-rich plasma is blood with a high concentration of platelets––5 to 10 times more than blood usually carries. To create PRP, we separate the platelets from your red blood cells and white blood cells in an automated centrifuge.
What are PRP injections?
By concentrating the amount of platelets in the plasma, we’re left with blood that is rich in the healing growth factors that we discussed above. This plasma can be injected back into the body at the site of an injury in order to promote the growth of new cells and healthy tissue.
You may be wondering what happens if you come to our office for PRP injections. Typically, the process looks something like this:
- Once you arrive, we will draw a sample of blood from a vein in your arm. The amount we take depends on the purpose of your PRP injections.
- We place your blood sample in our automated centrifuge, where the different components of your blood separate from each other, leaving us with the two components we want for your treatment: plasma and platelets. It takes about 15 minutes to create this concentrated plasma in our centrifuge.
- We take the platelet-rich plasma from your blood sample and place it in a syringe so we can inject it back into your body.
- When needed, we use an ultrasound to guide us as we perform the PRP injection. Particularly in the case of injuries, we want to be sure we’re positioning the syringe so you receive the PRP injection precisely where it is needed for optimum healing.
After your treatment, you can go back to work and your other regular daily activities. If you are receiving PRP injections for an injury, you will want to follow any activity restrictions you’ve been given and get the rest you need to heal properly.
What is PRP therapy used for?
The research on PRP therapy is exciting––we’ve only just begun to study how PRP injections can promote healing and stimulate new cell growth. Some of the most common uses of PRP injections include:
Osteoarthritis – Traditionally, hyaluronic acid injections have been used to treat joint pain from osteoarthritis. Emerging research has shown that PRP injections are more effective than hyaluronic acid injections for relieving the pain in arthritic joints.
Injuries – Many of our patients first learn of PRP therapy from hearing about how athletes like Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal use it to recover from their injuries. Sprains, pulled muscles, tendon problems, and other acute injuries can all be successfully treated with PRP injections. Chronic tendon injuries, like tennis elbow, can also be treated with platelet-rich plasma.
Post-Surgical Support – After you have surgery to repair an acute injury to a tendon or ligament, we can support the healing process and encourage healthy tissue growth with PRP injections at the site of the surgery.
Back Pain – PRP injections have proven more effective than steroid shots for treating a number of back issues, including sacroiliac pain, facet joint pain, and pain from bad discs.
Anti-Aging Skincare – The popular Vampire Facial treatment uses PRP to promote collagen and elastin growth to reverse signs of aging. Rather than injecting PRP into the skin with a syringe, aestheticians and dermatologists use a microneedling device to create hundreds of tiny channels all over the face for the PRP to seep in after it’s applied.
Hair Loss – Both men and women with thinning hair can benefit from PRP injections, which promote the growth of new hair and prevent the loss of existing hair.
At our clinic, we use PRP injections to treat patients with osteoarthritis, bursitis, ACL tears, and pain in the knees, hips, neck, shoulders, and back.
What is the difference between PRP and stem cell therapy?
Some of our patients wonder if PRP is the same as stem cell therapy. The answer is no; blood contains very few stem cells. Even concentrating plasma in a centrifuge does not leave us with enough stem cells to have any significant impact.
The platelets in platelet-rich plasma play a supporting role for local repair cells. Stem cells are different; the stem cells actually perform the needed repairs themselves.
How much does PRP cost? Is PRP covered by insurance?
Because PRP injections are on the cutting-edge of medicine, most insurance plans will not cover the cost. As the research about PRP grows more robust, we expect that more insurance companies will choose to start covering the procedure.
The cost of PRP therapy depends on the purpose of your treatment and how many injections you need. We will provide you with an estimate prior to your procedure.
Does PRP have side effects?
Platelet-rich plasma itself does not have side effects. This is because it’s your own blood––your body recognizes it when it’s injected back into you and there’s no possibility of allergic reactions. That said, any injection, whether it’s PRP or your seasonal flu shot, has the following potential risks:
- Infection at the injection site
- Nerve injuries
- Soreness, tenderness, and a feeling of bruising for a few days after the injection
- Tissue damage
Soreness is the most common side effect we see in our patients at CORE Medical & Wellness.
How many PRP injections are usually needed?
Every patient is different and the number of injections needed depends on the condition you’re being treated for. When PRP is being used to treat injuries, arthritis, or pain, we typically perform anywhere from two to six injections over a period of a few weeks. Patients usually begin to experience some relief after the first or second injection, although it takes time to start seeing the full results of PRP therapy.
How long does it take for PRP to work?
PRP injections are not a quick fix. If you came into our office in pain, you won’t leave our office pain-free. This is because PRP isn’t meant to treat pain; it’s meant to heal the underlying problem that is causing your pain. This takes time.
The amount of time needed to feel the effects of PRP depends on the purpose of your treatment. In the case of mild arthritis pain, you may start seeing results within a few weeks. With more significant injuries, like those involving tendons or ligaments, it may take up to 4 months to feel improvement. During this time, we will support you and offer treatments to alleviate any pain you’re feeling as you wait for the platelet-rich plasma to take effect.
Are PRP results permanent?
When PRP injections are being used to treat an acute injury, like a sprained knee, PRP offers a permanent solution. Once the area in question has healed, it should not cause pain again unless you re-injure it.
Other times, we use PRP to treat chronic issues or degenerative diseases: arthritis, hair loss, aging. These processes continue with or without PRP. What PRP offers in these circumstances is relief of symptoms. While we can’t give you a precise timeline, anecdotally we see 1-2 years of relief when symptoms are mild, and up to 6 months of relief in the case of more severe symptoms and pain.
PRP Treatments at CORE Medical & Wellness
Platelet-rich plasma injections are one of the many treatments we offer as part of our Non-Surgical Orthopedics, Spine & Sports Medicine practice. We are recognized leaders in the field of regenerative medicine and one of the premier non-surgical orthopedic practices in New Jersey and the New York Metropolitan Area.
To learn more about PRP injections and talk to one of our doctors about whether PRP therapy is right for you, contact us at 888-521-0688 to schedule an appointment in one of our three New Jersey locations.