PRP stands for Platelet Rich Plasma. Platelets, the flat, disc-shaped elements in blood, are what assist in normal blood clotting. Normally, when there’s a wound or injury in the body, extra platelets rush to the surface of the injury in an attempt to stop blood loss and then begin physical repair. Plasma is the colorless liquid in the blood which carries the platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells throughout the body. Extracting and using the best of these two healing properties of platelets and plasma is the goal for PRP applications.
Medically, PRP injections are being used to treat injuries and enhance the healing or growth of healthy tissues in the body. There are several common purposes for which these injections are being used.
How do PRP Injections Work?
When undergoing a Platelet Rich Plasma injection, first a doctor needs to take a small amount of blood from the patient who is going to be treated. This is done in a sterile room. The doctor draws a sample(s) of the patient’s blood into vials. The vials of blood are then placed inside a small machine called a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins at a high speed, which separates the blood platelets from the plasma. This process takes up to 20 minutes.
Then, the platelet-rich plasma is extracted from the vials and used for various purposes of injection. Think of PRP as a “concentrated” substance that promotes healing, new cell growth, and protein use among certain tissues. Because it’s concentrated with healthy platelets, it can work faster at repair than the body would on its own. It’s a generally safe and guaranteed helpful process, as you are for sure not going to negatively react or be allergic to anything in your own blood.
Typically, PRP injections happen through the insertion of a small needle directly into the wounded area. Sometimes, for smaller or hard to see areas such as tendons, medical imaging like an ultrasound is used for assistance. When the exact area is identified, the PRP is injected.
Common Uses of PRP Injections:
Healing of Injuries
PRP injections are most commonly used to help speed up the healing process of injuries. Damage to the tendons (thick tissues which bind muscle and bone together) is a frequent issue among performers and sports players. PRP injection treatment has been requested by many professional athletes for things like hamstring tears and muscle sprains.
When there is damage to the tissues in the body, the healing process can be rather slow. With the help of PRP injections, the tendon receives a boost in healthy cells which can then hopefully result in a fuller repair. This can also be done in patients with chronic tendon ailments.
The same goes for injuries that come with the recovery process after surgeries. Sometimes this can be done during surgery or at the end of the procedure, in an attempt to boost stem cell production and increase healing success. The method of injection, as well as the need for PRP with surgery, depends on the extent of damage done either during or after surgery.
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis where the connective tissue at the end of bones wears down. This can be extremely painful– think: bone rubbing on bone. The aim of treating osteoarthritis with PRP injections is to maintain the flexible tissue between the bones. If treated within the early stages of arthritis, it can promote slight regeneration of the tissues. If anything, it maintains the flexibility and strength of connective tissue, hopefully decreasing the pains and discomfort felt by the patient.
Hair Loss Prevention
A practical, not as medically serious purpose for PRP injections is in treating individuals who experience hair loss. The injections are done directly into the scalp to promote new hair growth and even prevent future hair loss. Studies have been showing this method is rather effective in people who suffer from male pattern baldness, which is a genetic history of balding. However, it can be performed on women, too. Both aging and young adult women can benefit from PRP scalp injections, and it’s one of the beautifying purposes involved with Platelet Rich Plasma.
PRP Facial Beauty Trend: The “Vampire Facelift”
You may have already heard about PRP injections through a current beauty trend popularly given attention to by Kim Kardashian: the “Vampire Facelift.” This is a type of PRP injection, only it’s injected into your face instead of in your tendons or joints for medical reasons.
Mainly, the PRP facial has been customer requested simply as a means for anti-aging and aesthetic purposes. But it can be done on the face for mild medical purposes, as well. Patients with bad acne, rosacea, or scars from surgery have also seen positive results from the PRP facial.
For this method of injection, a special tool is used by dermatologists or doctors which lightly punctures the surface of the face while distributing the patient’s PRP. It’s covered section by section until the entire face has been treated. The Platelet Rich Plasma apparently boosts collagen production, tightens fine lines and wrinkles, diminished scar tissue, and regenerates skin cells under the surface of the skin. It delivers the benefits of a general “facelift” while remaining a non-invasive procedure.
What are the Benefits of PRP?
The main benefit of PRP injections known so far is the ability to assist in healing. Other benefits vary from treatment, but they can include:
- Relief for tendonitis
- Decreases osteoarthritis pain
- Relief and healing for Plantar’s Fasciitis
- Shown at being successful for relieving unresponsive chronic pain
- Stimulates spinal and muscle stability resulting in relief from lower back pain
- Assists in the healing of gums and can relieve pain after dental surgeries
- Living, “natural” beauty enhancement without the need for invasive surgery
So far, there are no known serious side effects of PRP injections. Mild side effects can include:
- Tissue damage or nerve pain, in the case of improper injection
- Pain around the injection area