In recent years, we have understood that the body has inherent capacity to heal itself. This has led to the rise of a new field called regenerative medicine, which was initially more actively used in sports field but now more studies have been done on other groups of patients with promising results and outcomes when combined with good physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
Our blood contains three main components (red cells, white cells, and platelets) suspended in a liquid called plasma. The platelets are most important in clotting blood and also have hundreds of proteins called growth factors which are very important in the healing of injuries. If this blood sample is then centrifuged, then we can concentrate the platelets alone in a mixture called PRP. The concentration of platelets and growth factors can be 10 times greater than usual.
It is an important branch of medicine where the ability of the body to self-heal can be harnessed and it can be used to amplify any natural growth factors that are already present in our blood. An older treatment called prolotherapy stands for proliferative therapy, which effectively involves the injection of substances such as hypertonic dextrose and phenol that can be used to provoke a small amount of inflammation. The body’s inflammatory system then kicks into action and brings about further healing causing new fibres to be laid down, thus improving strength. We had autologous blood injections where the patient’s own blood could be taken from a vein and then injected into the site of a soft tissue injury such as tendinopathies or ligaments or even into the joints, and this can bring about healing.
What conditions can PRP be useful for?
There are studies showing benefits in patients with Achilles tendinitis, golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow, acute ligament injuries and sometimes patients with early mild to moderate arthritis in knees/hips/elbows and shoulder.
How can a pain consultant help?
Pain consultants often work as part of multidisciplinary teams and we have access to a good network of physiotherapists and rehab therapists who are able to work with us and our patients and create a personalized strategy that is very specific for the patient’s pain. Our main aim will be to restore function and range of movement, and combining PRP injections with other holistic treatment strategies that include medication, acupuncture, massage and physio can significantly improve the chance of success and long-term pain relief.