PRP has been used in surgeries to promote cell regeneration since 1987. A growing body of evidence shows it is a viable treatment for tendinosis. Not until recently, though, have experts researched and debated whether or not platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are an effective treatment for osteoarthritis.
Nearly all of the research investigating the use of PRP to treat osteoarthritis and other cartilage defects has been done since 2000, and the vast majority of research articles on the topic have been published since 2010.
Not all studies support the use of PRP to treat osteoarthritis; however, experts who have reviewed the existing body of researchers believe the evidence is largely encouraging and merits further investigation.
Knee Osteoarthritis Treated with PRP
Researchers studying PRP and osteoarthritis often work with patients who have knee osteoarthritis, a condition that experts estimate will affect nearly half of all Americans at some point during their lives. Two clinical studies that examine PRP to treat knee arthritis are described below.
One study, published in 2013, involved 78 patients with osteoarthritis in both knees (156 knees). Each knee received one of three treatments: 1 PRP injection, 2 PRP injections, or 1 placebo saline injection. Researchers evaluated the subjects’ knees 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after injection. Researchers found:
- Knees treated with 1 or 2 PRP injections saw a reduction in pain and stiffness as well as improvement in knee function at 6 weeks and 3 months.
- At the 6-month mark, positive results declined, though pain and function were still better than before PRP treatment.
- The group that received placebo injections saw a small increase in pain and stiffness and a decrease in knee function.
- The platelet-rich plasma used in this clinical study had 3 times the platelet concentration of normal blood and had been filtered to remove white blood cells.
A second, smaller study examined patients who had experienced mild knee pain for an average of 14 months. Each arthritic knee underwent an MRI to evaluate joint damage and then received a single PRP injection. Patients’ knees were assessed at the 1 week, 3 months, 6 months, and 1-year marks. In addition, each knee underwent a second MRI after one year. Researchers found:
- One year after receiving a PRP injection, most patients had less pain than they did the year before (though the pain had not necessarily disappeared).
- MRIs showed that that the degenerative process had not progressed in the majority of knees.
- While knee cartilage did not seem to regenerate for patients, the fact that arthritis did not worsen may be significant. Evidence suggests that an average of 4 to 6% of cartilage disappears each year in arthritic joints.
PRP proponents assert that PRP fails to successfully treat symptoms in some cases because of differences in PRP formulation or injection administration – in other words, certain changes in variables, such as PRP preparation methods, the amount of PRP injected, and the frequency of injections, can make the PRP less effective.
It may be that PRP therapy, like other osteoarthritis treatments, works for some people but not for others, or works best in conjunction with other treatments, such as physical therapy.
Joint pain increases with age
When you’re in your younger years, you might only notice aches and pains after strenuous exercise or a sports injury. But as you grow older, it’s common for pain to appear more frequently.
Your joints contain bone, cartilage, and fluid that work together. Young joints have plenty of cartilage and fluid to lubricate bones and help them move smoothly and painlessly. But your joints get stiffer and less flexible as you age.
Cartilage wears away and joints stop producing as much fluid. Nearly every joint, from your elbows and fingers to your hips and knees, can be affected by aging. Some people develop mineral deposits around some joints, and this calcification can reduce the range of motion.
Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of chronic joint pain. It’s one of the most common types of arthritis, and it develops with years of wear-and-tear on your joints.
When you have osteoarthritis, the cartilage between the bones in your joints slowly disappears. Instead of being cushioned by sufficient cartilage, your bones grind together, causing inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
Conservative treatments for joint pain include combining periods of activity and rest, icing painful joints, and taking anti-inflammatory medication as directed. But while these methods can temporarily relieve joint pain, they’re not always enough.
How PRP eases your joint pain
Our team understands the various ways that aging affects your joints. Whether you have arthritis or not, we offer comprehensive joint care to help you live a more active, pain-free life.
Depending on the severity of your joint deterioration, we may suggest a number of different treatment options aimed at relieving joint pain. For many people experiencing joint pain associated with aging, PRP therapy can bring significant improvement in joint mobility and quality of life.
PRP is a specialized solution that’s developed using a sample of your blood. Our doctor takes a small vial of blood from your arm and prepares platelet-rich plasma by spinning a vial in a centrifuge to separate the blood cells and plasma into layers. Then the platelets, which contain special proteins called growth factors, are combined with a small amount of plasma to make your PRP.
This highly concentrated solution is then injected at specific points around the joints that hurt. PRP therapy for arthritis and joint pain has the power to:
- reduce pain;
- increase joint function;
- improve mobility;
- enhance the quality of cartilage.
Growth factors tap into your body’s natural ability to heal itself. When used for aging joints, PRP therapy can stimulate healthy cell regeneration and increase fluid in stiff joints. PRP therapy slows down or repairs damaged cartilage, and it can reduce inflammation and swelling.
After we draw your blood and create your PRP, the injections generally take just a few minutes. Pain relief with PRP therapy takes a few weeks for you to feel the effects, as new healthy cells begin to grow. You can expect each therapy session to deliver pain relief for up to several months at a time.
Don’t let your aging joints stop you from participating in your favorite activities.
Talk to our team for free to learn more about the benefits of PRP for your joint pain. If this therapy is right for you, we develop a personalized injection plan for you.