The U.S. CDC estimates that 50 million Americans live with chronic pain: more than 20% of the entire adult population. Worse, 40% of these cases are “high-impact” pain that’s severe enough to limit life and work activities. Today, technologies such as PRP therapy are bringing new hope and life-changing results to those suffering from chronic pain. Renew Health in Tempe, AZ offers expert services with this revolutionary regenerative treatment.
Regenerative Medicine: Reverse-Engineering Pain
There are obviously many kinds of pain, but none of them are easy to live with, and all of them mean the same thing – something is wrong in the body. The source of pain may be a new or old injury or wear on body parts due to age. Until now, doctors have dealt with pain mainly by administering pain relief (pills, shots, physical therapy) or, when possible, surgical correction of the damage.
There is a newer direction in healthcare called “regenerative medicine” that takes a different approach. Doctors have found that in the case of many painful ailments, the body itself would be capable of healing the damage on its own if it were intelligently directed to do so. Regenerative medicine is the practice of precisely aiming the body’s own restorative powers directly to the source of the pain. Damages are, in effect, restored with fresh, healthy, pain-free tissue.
What Is PRP Therapy?
There are several methods of regenerative medicine available, but one of the most successful treatments is called “Platelet Rich Plasma” or PRP therapy. In this method, a small amount of blood is drawn from the patient and placed in a spinning centrifuge, which separates the blood into components. The most important part of this procedure are the platelets, one of the body’s most important healing agents.
The platelet-rich plasma (plasma being the liquid portion of the blood) is then injected into the damaged area, whether it’s a joint, a tendon, a breast, or another body part. These super-enriched healing agents go straight to work to rebuild damaged tissue, attracting other healing agents from the body in turn. Over the course of weeks, fresh tissue replaces what’s damaged, injured or worn tissue is healed, and the pain is gone.
What’s So Special About Platelets?
Platelets are the tiny cells in the bloodstream that are primarily responsible for clotting a bleeding injury. When there’s a cut outside or inside our body, platelets speed to the area and begin to coagulate, stopping the bleeding and covering the damage with a scab. Platelets have sticky tentacles that catch more platelets at the scene of the injury. Their clotting function prevents the injury, whether internal or external, from further bleeding.
Beyond their core mission to clot bleeding and minimize tissue damage, platelets also send out chemical signals that attract additional healing agents to the site of the problem. These assorted “growth agents” direct themselves to the injured or worn tissue and begin to re-fabricate new tissue in its place. Researchers have been able to identify more than 30 of these “growth factors” that platelets call up as healing reinforcements.
What Conditions Can PRP Therapy Treat?
The body is its own best doctor, and its own immune systems and healing agents are usually capable of keeping us healthy. However, as we age, our body’s defenses are less able to keep up with the wear. This is especially true throughout our musculoskeletal system – the joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and the other soft and hard components that make up the solid parts of our bodies.
PRP treatments have been used to remarkable effect on a wide variety of musculoskeletal and other issues that cause pain. These include:
Tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect muscle to bone. There are literally thousands of tendons in our bodies, but a handful of important ones are especially prone to injury as a result of their prominent role in movement and activity. The fact that tendons get less blood flow than muscles makes it difficult for the body’s healing agents to be effective enough.
When a tendon flares up in pain because of a new “acute” event like a sports injury, the patient is experiencing tendinitis. When tendon pain is chronic – recurrent over time – the syndrome is called tendinosis. Both of these are painful conditions, but tendinitis often resolves itself as the injury heals. Tendinosis is the painful result when the tendon does not heal. Some common tendon trouble spots include:
- Achilles tendon: the longest tendon in the body, connects calf muscles to the heel bone
- Rotator cuff: shoulder ligaments often damaged through repetitive actions like sports
- Patellar tendon: connects the bottom of the kneecap to the top of the shinbone
PRP treatments have shown clinical success rates of over 90% in treating these types of injuries and are now common practice in professional sports medicine.
Ligament and Muscle Injuries
Ligaments are another type of connective tissue that connects cartilage and bones together, typically in joints. Ligaments often wear out because of the active role these joints play in our lives. Think of how many times our knees flex in a day, or our ankles, elbow, or even our jaws.
While many ligament injuries are caused through athletic activities such as sports and running, others are simply a matter of wear and tear, especially as people enter middle age and beyond. Surgical corrections, such as knee replacements, have skyrocketed in popularity, but thanks to PRP therapy, there is an alternative to surgery. Some common ligament injuries that can be treated by PRP include:
- ACL tears: large ligaments behind the kneecap, connecting shin bone to thigh bone
- Plantar Fasciitis: stretches across the bottom of the foot, causes “jogger’s heel”
- TMJ: complex joint where the jaw meets the skull
- Separated shoulder: partial tears in the ligaments connecting collarbone to the scapula
PRP treatments have been proven to heal ligament damages, strengthening tissue by as much as 40% in some patients.
This is a degenerative condition that usually comes with aging. Over the years, important body joints that are cushioned by protective cartilage suffer when the cartilage begins to degrade. As we age, there’s more water content and less protein in the shock-absorbing cartilage, so there’s less natural ability to heal. Repetitive stress over long periods of time causes this painful disease.
Osteoarthritis affects an estimated 27 million Americans. Most people over age 60 have it to some degree, and with varying levels of severity. However, people in their 20s and 30s can get osteoarthritis too, often as a result of repetitive athletic activity. In people over age 50, the disease affects more women than men. Some common joints where osteoarthritis is common include:
- Knees – especially due to long-term repetitive athletic motions such as running
- Hips – a lifetime of walking wears tissue, especially for the overweight or obese
- Wrists – the information age and our use of keyboards are big contributors
- Thumbs – even young people develop the disease through “gamer’s thumb”
Doctors believe that an average of 4% to 6% of cartilage disappears each year in arthritic joints. PRP can help rebuild shock-absorbing tissue and alleviate pain without pills
Back and Spine Conditions
Back pain is one of America’s most common and costly health conditions. According to a study by Georgetown University, some 16 million adults — 8% of all U.S. adults — experience persistent or chronic back pain. The study showed that back pain is the sixth most costly condition in the U.S., with direct care costs and indirect costs exceeding $12 billion per year.
These numbers don’t take into account time lost to work and family because of back pain. Adults suffering from back pain spend almost 200 million days in bed a year. The constant cloud of back pain also affects the mental health of those that live with it, and by extension, their relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. Common back problems that can be treated with PRP include:
- Slipped or herniated discs: damages to the cushions between the spine’s vertebrae
- Sciatica: disease of the sciatic nerve, running from the spine down both legs
- Low back pain: often difficult to diagnose and treat with conventional methods
PRP therapy has shown remarkable results for back and spine problems without risky back surgery.
What’s a Session Like?
Once the therapy begins, the doctor will numb the treatment area with a local anesthetic. A small amount of your blood, usually less than two ounces, is drawn and then placed into a centrifuge system for 30-45 minutes. While the entirety of a PRP session takes about an hour, the injection itself takes only about 10-15 minutes.
There’s very little risk or infection or complications because the patient is receiving his or her own blood. Some mild swelling may occur at the treated spot when the procedure is finished, but there is no downtime for the procedure. Patients go back to their routine more or less immediately after treatment.
What Happens After the Session?
After the procedure is done, you’ll be asked to keep the site of the PRP treatment clean and dry. Leave any bandage on for 12 to 24 hours and then replace the bandage with a Band-Aid until the site heals. Don’t use ice on the PRP site because ice reduces swelling. The therapy is meant to cause swelling, which helps the regenerative process.
Patients may experience some bruising for three to seven days after a PRP treatment. Tylenol is usually recommended for these discomforts. Our doctor will provide advice regarding any post-treatment medications.
How Long Before I See Results?
Relief from pain typically becomes noticeable within three to four weeks after PRP treatment. Most symptoms continue to improve over a period of three to six months. Pain and discomfort caused by osteoarthritis usually respond faster to PRP therapy than tendon-related pains such as tendonitis or tennis elbow. The number of treatments needed depends on the severity of the injury and the size of the area that needs to be treated.
Active lifestyles, whether in the present or in the past, are often the root of painful conditions in the joints, back, neck, and extremities. Even those who are not athletic have heard of tennis and golfer’s elbow and other sports injuries. The pain from these syndromes can stop people from enjoying what they love to do. Other injuries brought on by age, such as osteoarthritis and joint and spinal disc degeneration, can be even more debilitating.
Stop Living With Pain
Living with pain is not only limiting: it’s demoralizing. This is especially true for those who have tried solutions for their pain without success or are rightfully concerned about the risks involved in surgical solutions. PRP therapy is a non-painful, non-surgical solution that can not only stop the pain but repair the damage that’s causing it. Call today for a consultation with Renew Health in Tempe, AZ and find out how this dramatic therapy can change your life and let you live pain-free.