Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections for pain management: how do they work?

Written by: Mr Phil Wright
Published: | Updated: 14/10/2020
Edited by: Emma McLeod

A PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection contains proteins that can help to manage pain caused by degeneration and inflammation of tissue. Mr Phil Wright provides you with a thorough overview of what this injection does, who it can help and when the benefits can be noticed.

Blood in a test tube which will be used for PRP injection

How do PRP injections help with pain?

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are thought to offer potential benefits to patients who suffer from:

  • Osteoarthritis (the loss of the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of bones)
  • Tendinitis (pain arising from tendon tissue that connects muscle to bone)

 

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) contains high concentrations of four different proteins (growth factors). These proteins have four functions:

  1. Influence cell growth
  2. Control bone formation
  3. Stimulate the development of new blood vessels
  4. Modulate tissue inflammation

 

Furthermore, it’s believed that PRP may generate a healing response in tissues experiencing pain caused by degeneration and inflammation.

 

How long does it take to get PRP injections?

PRP injections can often be arranged within two weeks of an initial consultation. They only take around 30 minutes to perform.

 

What type of pain does it help with?

The science and understanding of platelet-rich plasma is still developing and it may be appropriate for some conditions more than others. There is scientific evidence that states PRP helps pain from knee arthritis and  tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). It’s also often used in other conditions, but the outcome may be less certain.

 

How quickly should the injections work?

Many patients begin to feel relief from symptoms from twelve weeks onwards. In a recent study of patients receiving PRP for tennis elbow, the treatment was successful in over 80 per cent of patients 24 weeks after their injection.

 

What happens during a session?

A blood sample is taken from the arm in the same way as having a blood test at a doctor’s surgery. The blood is spun in a machine ( centrifuge) that separates the platelet-rich portion of the blood. This is then injected into the painful area or joint and an adhesive dressing is applied. No general anaesthetic is required, although local anaesthesia before the PRP injection can reduce discomfort.

 

Who is a good candidate for PRP injections?

PRP is appropriate to consider when the pain has persisted despite trying over the counter analgesia (pain relief) and avoiding activities that provoke pain for six weeks. PRP is most helpful when used as part of a comprehensive program to improve musculoskeletal health. This includes quitting smoking, weight loss, activity modification and musculoskeletal physiotherapy with a long term commitment to rehabilitation and exercise.

 

Discover how Mr Wright’s first-class patient care can benefit you - visit his profile.

By Mr Phil Wright
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr Phil Wright is a leading consultant orthopaedic surgeon specialising in surgery of the shoulder and elbow. He currently sees patients and operates privately at The Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital and Ramsay Yorkshire Clinic.

Mr Wright's areas of interest are arthroscopic (keyhole) shoulder surgery, shoulder replacement surgery and upper limb trauma. He graduated from Oxford University Medical School in 1998 and completed surgical training in the West Yorkshire region.

After completing his specialist orthopaedic training, he undertook a year-long upper limb fellowship post at the internationally renowned Wrightington Hospital. Mr Wright was appointed as a consultant at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in July 2011.

Mr Wright has presented research work at both national and international meetings and has also published in peer-reviewed medical journals. He trains junior doctors and orthopaedic surgeons and is a member of the British Trauma Society, the British Elbow and Shoulder Society and the British Orthopaedic Association.

Mr Wright firmly believes that the key to achieving the best possible outcome is to ensure the patient is well informed and involved in all treatment decisions. He enjoys the many and varied challenges that running a specialist shoulder and elbow practice involves.

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