Give Blood: Using PRP To Heal Injuries
Posted by Jenn F. on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. If you have, I bet it was in a context like this: “Yeah, Kobe’s been looking good since he went to Germany for that ‘Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy.'” Smirk, smirk. “How’s A-Rod doing?” “Well, Kobe sent him to that doctor in Germany for Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.” Nudge nudge. Wink wink. Eye roll.
Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (muster all your speech weapons to say that one), or PRP, has probably been most closely associated with high profile athletes like Tiger Woods, Jose Reyes, Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez. The problem, though, is that those are lightning rod athletes who people feel strongly about. As in they hate them and suspect them of being “up to something.” That suspicion isn’t helped when Kobe and A-Rod go to get PRP in Germany, when there are many doctors who do it here, or when the Canadian doctor who performed it on Tiger Woods and Jose Reyes gets caught up in a performance enhancing drug scandal. The implication is that ‘PRP’ is highly paid athlete code for, “I am going to another country to get myself shot up with human growth hormone and undetectable steroids, but let’s just tell everyone I’m getting PRP.”
That’s unfortunate, because PRP is actually a legitimate form of therapy that can be used to help injuries heal. And you don’t have to be a highly paid professional athlete to have access to it either. So let’s find out a little more about it, especially in terms of helping heal foot injuries such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinosis (note: the term plantar fasciitis is being replaced by plantar fasciosis, but for familiarity’s sake, let’s refer to it as “fasciitis” for the moment).
What is plasma? Who are platelets? Why are they getting rich? Can I get in on this? To be all technical, plasma is “the fluid portion of your blood.” Platelets are cells that generate a protein called “growth factors.” When you have an injury, your blood rushes a burst of platelets to the injured area so the growth factors can help begin the healing process. That’s great for immediate injuries, like a cut or a broken bone. However old, or lingering injuries, such as the nagging aches and pains that come with tendinosis, don’t get that injection of platelets anymore. So if you have Achilles tendinosis, or ongoing small tears in your Achilles tendon, you have an injury, you feel the pain, but your body isn’t on emergency alert, sending platelets to the area anymore. The healing process slows down considerably.
So…what does PRP do, then? The idea behind PRP is to speed up the healing by sending a blast of platelets to those areas.
Who should get it? Most podiatrists will initially try to treat injuries like plantar fasciitis or Achiles tendinosis conservatively, recommending rest, stretching, perhaps orthotics. If that doesn’t work, then they may recommend PRP as an intervention to help the injury heal more quickly and eliminate the need for surgery. Avoiding surgery means avoiding things like a really long healing period, wearing a cast, and the risk of infection. The podiatrists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) have had a great deal of success using it over the last few years.
Okay, imagine I have a PRP therapy appointment, but I’m not going to Germany with Kobe and A-Rod. What should I expect? Here’s what happens: a doctor withdraws some blood from you, and then puts it into a centrifuge. The blood is spun in the centrifuge until the platelets separate from the rest of the plasma. The pure platelets are then injected into the injured area, creating a reaction similar to the one when a traumatic injury causes the platelets to rush to an area. Rather than one long injection, the needle is popped in and out quickly, spraying the platelets throughout the injured area; the action of the needle helps break up scar tissue. A Podiatry Today article about PRP then recommends putting patients in a walking boot for about two weeks, depending on the intensity of the procedure. Then the patient may wear orthotics or stiff soled shoes to help with the rehab, along with some stretching. Icing and anti-inflammatories are NOT recommended during the healing process. Some patients may eventually need another injection; Podiatry Today reported that 70% were fine with one injection, while 30% required a second injection (read one woman’s one injection success story here).
So there you go. PRP makes a lot of sense when you eliminate the conspiracy theories and whispers about human growth hormone and envy of highly paid professional athletes.
If you have a lingering foot or ankle injury, you might be a candidate for PRP. Contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine to find out if PRP is right for you. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.