You may be feeling encouraged by the mounting research and personal testimonials about the effectiveness of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) as a therapeutic tool for healing certain types of injuries and slowing the spread of some diseases. PRP has been shown to be an effective treatment for faster healing that can help to restore function while decreasing pain. Made popular by athletes, PRP is a treatment that is generally open to patients of every age from all walks of life. It’s an option worth considering if you’re dealing with a tissue injury that is not healing or resolving using standard therapies like physical therapy or exercise. It is also a potentially good option if you’d like to avoid taking prescription pain medication to manage an injury.
If you’re considering PRP therapy, it’s only natural to be curious about what to expect during the treatment process. First, it’s important to understand what PRP is not when weighing it against other treatment options. Here’s a look:
- PRP is not an invasive procedure.
- PRP does not use any type of incision or surgical procedure.
- PRP does not require a hospital stay.
- PRP does not involve drug therapies.
- PRP has little to no recovery time.
As you may already know, PRP uses your own blood to create plasma-rich injections that are administered at the site of your injury. The first question that springs to mind for many who try to picture what the procedure looks like in their head is if PRP treatments hurt. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what happens from the patient’s perspective during PRP treatments.
What Happens During a PRP Treatment?
During a PRP treatment, plasma-rich platelets and other growth factors from your own blood are injected into your body. Prior to treatment, you’ll have a consultation and examination to confirm that PRP is an appropriate and recommended treatment based on both the nature of your injury and your personal health history. Next, we’ll look at what you can expect to feel as a patient during your PRP procedure.
Upon arriving at your appointment, your doctor will be drawing fresh blood. This won’t feel very different from standard blood draws you’ve had in the past. Next, the freshly drawn blood is placed in a special centrifuge that separates all of the parts of your blood into layers. The goal here is to get your red blood cells separated from the platelet-rich plasma that is present in your blood in order to create concentrated plasma. You will be prepped for the procedure during this time. You may be offered a pain reliever or local anesthesia if you feel concerned about your comfort level during the injection.
Typically, your doctor will be using an ultrasound to guide the procedure. However, this isn’t always the case. The next step is the actual injection. The newly created platelet-rich plasma therapy tailored specially for you using your own blood is now injected directly at the site of your injury. Let’s go over what this feels like from a pain perspective.
It’s not uncommon for patients to feel discomfort during the injection. However, anything that can be described as “pain” beyond minimal discomfort is unlikely. Some patients do experience lingering soreness following the procedure. The soreness typically subsides within a day. However, it’s possible for moderate soreness or pain to linger at the injection site for between two and three weeks. Here are some factors that contribute to the pain levels felt from PRP treatments:
- Your general level of pain tolerance or sensitivity to pain.
- The location of your injury/injection site.
- The severity of your injury or inflammation levels.
- Your general state of health.
There’s typically no need for alarm if you notice bruising or redness at the site of the injection. However, you’ll be able to speak with your doctor if anything about your healing seems unusual to you. In addition, you’ll be fully briefed about what to expect in terms of typical healing prior to being dismissed from your PRP therapy appointment.
What Is the Recovery Process Like Following a PRP Injection?
While PRP therapy is a very non-invasive, gentle procedure that doesn’t come with any of the major risks associated with surgery, healing can still take time. In fact, the actual recovery time for PRP is very similar to the recovery time needed following a minimally invasive surgical treatment. However, the patient may not actually “feel” like they need to recover at all because they’re walking away from their treatment feeling the same as they did when they arrived. Each patient will have a different experience based on their body’s own healing process.
Generally, a patient can resume normal life routines as soon as a PRP treatment has been conducted. However, it is advised that patients “take it slow” in terms of physical exercise and exertion for at least a week following treatment. While there’s no need to spend a week recovering on the couch, it is beneficial to still operate in a recovery-minded mode for a week after treatment. Your doctor will give you specific guidelines regarding the activities that are permitted or restricted. Typically, patients are given the clear to resume all normal activities during an appointment six weeks following the procedure. It is unlikely that you’ll still be experiencing pain or discomfort stemming from your injection at this point.
Does PRP Have Any Side Effects?
For most people, the only side effect of a PRP injection is significant and lasting pain relief. However, a small number of patients may experience some mildly adverse reactions following PRP treatments. The most common side effect is pain or discomfort at the site of the injection. A very small number of patients may experience nausea or dizzy spells following a procedure. There is also a small potential for scars to form in the connective tissue as a result of PRP injections. During your consultation for PRP therapy, your doctor will go over all of the potential side effects that have been associated with PRP treatments to help you make a fully informed decision about the potential benefits of this treatment for you.
Final Thoughts: Is PRP Painful?
As you can see, PRP is generally a painless treatment that allows for patients to enjoy quick recovery with very little need to manage the injection site. Some physical rest that doesn’t require a person to “stop their life” is typically all that’s needed for a full PRP recovery. That doesn’t mean that patients won’t experience mild discomfort. However, the side effects and recovery time associated with PRP treatments are significantly less severe than what one would expect following major surgery. This is one of the many reasons why PRP is preferred over surgery for tissue injuries for many patients seeking pain relief and restored mobility. As a result, PRP is quickly becoming a common treatment for ligament injuries, tendon injuries, joint injuries, muscle injuries, arthritis, osteoarthritis and much more.
How can you determine if PRP therapy is a good option to help promote healing for you? The first step is to book a consultation to learn more about PRP therapy. The big benefit of seeking PRP therapy over other pain-relief options is that this is a treatment that offers permanent results without the need for surgery. By contrast, injections that are designed solely for pain relief wear off between appointments due to the fact that they are only addressing pain without promoting deep healing and restoration.