Have you heard of Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP?
If you’ve injured your shoulder or even just if you are an athlete or otherwise super active, you know the risks of damaging your shoulder joint through over-exertion.
The more active you are, the more likely you are to over-exert or strain the tendons, ligaments, and muscles in your shoulder joint and other joints beyond their limits.
If you are an athlete, you are probably used to pushing yourself to the limit and that can have a major impact on your tendons, joints, and ligaments, which can cause repetitive stress injuries and conditions like tendonitis and osteoarthritis.
Depending on your shoulder injury or the overall condition of your shoulder joint, your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend PRP injections or platelet rich plasma treatments in order to minimize your pain and make it easier for you to get back on the field or court and otherwise go about your daily life.
PRP injection recovery time can be fairly swift, since it is an outpatient procedure that takes a minimal amount of time and is relatively non-invasive.
What Are PRP or Platelet Rich Plasma Treatments?
PRP or platelet rich plasma is a modified version of plasma, a blood component that contains the special proteins or factors that help your blood to clot, along with other proteins that support cell growth.
Biology researchers create platelet plasma by isolating plasma from the blood and concentrating it, and then it is used for PRP injections.
The concept behind PRP treatments is that when it is injected into an injured or damaged area of your body like the shoulder joint, PRP will stimulate the tissues to grow healthy new cells and overall support and promote the healing process.
Since the tissue growth proteins in PRP are more concentrated than other growth injection options, the latest research points to the fact that PRP treatments may help damaged tissues heal faster.
While PRP treatments have yet to be definitively proven, world class athletes such as Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal have stated that they’ve used PRP procedures after joint injuries.
PRP injections aren’t a cure for a shoulder joint injury or condition, but they can help to decrease pain, improve functionality, and expedite the healing process.
PRP injections are considered to be effective for chronic tendon injuries or conditions like tendonitis, tennis elbow, and similar issues.
Professional athletes have been reported to use it for muscle pulls or strains and sprains as well, but that may not be a recommended course for the non-professional.
Plasma rich platelets have also been used during surgery on the joints to help tissues heal more quickly.
Suffering from any of the above conditions or injuries? Ask your orthopaedic surgeon if PRP treatments could be a good course of action for you.
How Does PRP Work?
Platelet rich plasma treatments work by injecting PRP directly into the affected area.
This is usually an outpatient procedure that takes around an hour depending on your specific needs and any other issues that need to be assessed or treated.
The process starts with a healthcare professional drawing a sample of your blood, typically around twenty milliliters (approximately a teaspoonful) but the sample size needed will depend on your individual condition and physiology as well as where the PRP will be injected.
Next, the blood is put into a centrifuge – a machine that will spin the blood around super quickly, which will cause the components to separate.
Then a technician will take the newly separated plasma and prepare it for injection. When you are getting PRP injections, a local anesthetic will likely be mixed in or topically applied to minimize pain at the injection site.
Before you get a PRP injection, your doctor will likely use imaging like ultrasounds or MRIs in order to determine the exact spots for the injection.
Side effects should be fairly mild, but like any other shot or injection, you may experience some pain or soreness at the injection site and there is a minor risk of nerve injuries, infection, or tissue damage in the area, but this procedure is very low risk overall because you are receiving your own blood.
Always discuss your concerns with your doctor before receiving any procedure including PRP injections.
PRP injections may also be performed as part of a shoulder surgery or other surgical procedure; in this case you should follow your orthopaedic surgeon’s instructions for pre-surgery prep and post-surgery recovery.
Note that you will be asked to refrain from taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin or naproxen (these medications interfere with platelet function and therefore the effectiveness of the treatment) for a short period of time before the PRP procedure.
If you have questions about what medications are contra-indicted for PRP injection treatments, always ask your doctor.
PRP Injections for Shoulder Problems
If you have a problem with your shoulder such as repetitive stress injury or chronic condition, your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend PRP injections.
PRP injections may also be used for more acute shoulder injuries such as fractures, rotator cuff tears, or other ligament and tendon issues, particularly during surgery.
In the case of using PRP treatment during surgery, the plasma can be prepped in such a way that it is injected or stitched directly into the affected tissues.
Having shoulder surgery soon? Ask your orthopaedic surgeon if PRP treatment would be beneficial in your case.
Note that shoulder joint (as well as other joint) PRP injections may cause some mild swelling or discomfort, but you should be able to resume normal activities almost right away.
PRP Injections for Elbow Problems
PRP may also be recommended for elbow problems.
The process is similar to the process for PRP injections in the shoulder.
PRP injections in the elbow are often used to treat tennis elbow, tendonitis, and similar conditions.
Platelet rich plasma treatments may also be used during surgery for acute elbow injuries and fractures.
PRP and Fractures of the Shoulder
Sometimes PRP injections are performed as part of a larger treatment program or even during surgery to help speed up the healing of a shoulder fracture or rotator cuff tear.
PRP injections may also be scheduled for after the surgery to help speed up the healing process and get you back to normal more quickly, or if your fractured shoulder, rotator cuff tear, or other injury isn’t healing as quickly as you and your orthopaedic surgeon hoped.
When Is Shoulder Surgery Recommended?
PRP treatments are not a complete solution to shoulder injuries or other problems, but the injections are often used during recovery from shoulder surgery as well treatment for repetitive stress injuries and chronically painful shoulder conditions.
If PRP injections are not helping to ease chronic pain or if the damage to the tissues of the shoulder joint or other areas are too extensive, then your doctor may advise more drastic treatments and even surgical intervention.
Plasma rich platelets can also be helpful during the shoulder surgery recovery process in order to help speed up healing and relieve pain post-surgery.
What is the PRP Injection Recovery Time?
After getting PRP injections, you may experience some mild swelling or discomfort in the affected area – the same as you would for any other injection or shot.
You should be aware that because PRP injections are used to promote speedier healing and tissue growth, you will see more gradual results over the next couple of weeks as opposed to seeing an immediate change on the same day that you have the procedure performed.
Long term, PRP injections are designed to alleviate pain through speeding up the healing process.
While you may see some initial improvement a few weeks out, the real value of the procedure may lie in getting back to normal activities as well as being able to engage in physiotherapy and exercise more quickly than you would otherwise and helping to treat and heal damaged tissues before the condition or injury worsens.
This is why PRP treatment may be advised for both chronic conditions like tendonitis or osteoarthritis as well as a way to help heal more acute injuries like shoulder fractures and rotator cuff tears.
Since the recovery time for PRP injections is so minimal and the procedure is so low risk, you may be recommended to have a course of several injections scheduled for around two to three weeks apart.
What Kind of Exercises and Physiotherapy Are Recommended After PRP Injections?
The treatment and exercise regimen that you should engage in after PRP depends on your orthopaedic surgeon and physiotherapist.
It is likely that your PRP treatment is part of a larger regimen of physiotherapy and other rehabilitation methods.
Icing the affected area, over the counter medications to handle inflammation and pain, and other treatments recommended by your orthopaedic surgeon.
PRP injections and related treatments are still in their infancy, but they hold a lot of promise when it comes to relieving chronic pain from tendon injuries and associated damage, as well as further potential for helping to hasten the healing process and minimize recovery time from shoulder surgery and other injuries.
Do you think platelet rich plasma or PRP injections would help you with your shoulder problems?
Then you should contact an orthopaedic surgeon with experience performing PRP injections and platelet rich plasma treatments as soon as possible.