Although it is not exactly new, regenerative medicine remains very much in the news. Athletes from a number of sports continue to turn to it to speed up the healing process – names like Bryce Harper, Karl-Anthony Towns and Dak Prescott being among the most recent, with Tiger Woods, Rafael Nadal and Kobe Bryant having undergone the therapy in the past.
But that is hardly to say that regenerative medicine is limited to sports stars. Indeed, the process can be used for repairing a variety of injuries by using your own cells to repair tissue without recourse to surgery.
Specifically, Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment – which the above-named athletes all underwent – involves taking a sample of your blood and spinning it in a machine called a centrifuge in order to separate out the various components – those being platelets, the element of blood that is critical for clotting. Platelet-Rich Plasma also contains proteins known as growth factors which play a significant role in the biology of healing.
Once the PRP has been extracted and treated, it is re-injected into the injury site to help biologically boost the healing process in the tissue, using ultrasound guidance to deliver it to exactly the right place. In addition, it can help with wound-healing and joint injury.
In fact, PRP is commonly used for joint or tendon pain caused by acute injury or by overuse, and can be effective in treating osteoarthritis of the knees, rotator cuff tears, Achilles tendon injuries, sciatica and herniated discs.
As the process stimulates new cell growth, it can also help to enhance one’s complexion and skin texture, and reportedly.can even be utilized to help treat male pattern baldness, although conclusive research for the latter has yet to be proven.
Although some patients see improvement within a couple of weeks, unlike a steroid injection – which typically provides immediate pain relief, PRP can take a few months to truly make a difference. And depending on the patient and the condition being treated, up to four PRP injections may be necessary. The treatment’s effectiveness, however, can last for several months.
PRP is sometimes mistaken for stem-cell therapy. While both fall under the “regenerative medicine” umbrella, stem cells are retrieved from your bone marrow or fat deposits. Stem cells are not as plentiful in one’s body as platelets, and extracting them is more complex.
Keep in mind that PRP is not for everyone. An individual with a history of active cancer, blood-related conditions like leukemia or severe anemia, infections in the treatment area, or is an active smoker are usually not considered a candidate for the PRP procedure.
However, anyone with severe pain should explore the possibility of PRP with their healthcare provider. Its benefits can truly be life-altering.
Dr. David Spinner is Director of Pain Management at White Plains Hospital. For an appointment, call 914-849-1199.