Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has been used to effectively treat tennis elbow, a condition caused by overusing the arm, forearm and hand muscles that result in extreme elbow pain.
As you might expect, tennis and golf players are highly susceptible to being affected. About 50 percent of players come down with the condition in their career. With physical therapy, about 90 to 95 percent will recover but 5 percent will need surgery.
Because surgery can be a scary proposition for some, studies have indicated PRP treatment to be an effective alternative. To treat someone using PRP therapy, a doctor extracts a small amount of blood from the patient using a double syringe. It is then placed into a centrifuge where it spins for around five minutes, separating the blood into platelets, red and white blood cells. The platelets are then injected into damaged areas of the body.
"The yellow serum [plasma] contains all the platelets at a concentration that is much higher than normal blood," said Dr. Harold Vanderschmidt, who has treated around 800 patients in Duabi using PRP since 2012. "Cartilage has no blood vessels and tendon has few good blood vessels so we are using it to bring the healing factors to areas where the body cannot bring it in. This is the concept of the treatment."
While PRP therapy is still being tested, it has been used to repair tendons, ligaments and cartilage. PRP is best injected into affected areas where the tendon inserts into the bone.
"Using PRP therapy to repair cartilage is still relatively experimental, but studies like this show it's not only safe but also offers a significant improvement in function and quality of life for patients," said Elizaveta Kon, MD, lead author for the study and Director of Nano-Biotecnology Laboratory at the Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute. "None of the patients treated experienced complications like infection, deep vein thrombosis or fever."
Before being treated for PRP, it's recommended to do physical therapy first. If that doesn't work, PRP is a great option.