For many people, the way back from a muscle injury is a long, hard road. Fortunately, recovery regimens that include things like physical therapy and manual chiropractic adjustments can help people to speed up the healing process, restore mobility and relieve pain by collaborating with the body’s own natural healing process. For some people, this is enough to get back in “fighting shape” again. However, other people find that they need more intensive treatments. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean surgery.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a surgery-free, non-invasive treatment option that uses your own blood cells to promote tissue regeneration and healing. In fact, PRP therapy can be especially beneficial for people suffering from muscle strains. While PRP has been touted as a “wonder treatment” by countless professional athletes, it’s important to note that this treatment is not reserved for elite performers with access to specialist physicians. What’s more, it isn’t necessary to have a “sports” injury to receive PRP treatments. PRP injections are used by people of all ages, occupations, and walks of life to recover from a number of different injuries and degenerative conditions. Take a look at the basics of treating muscle strain with PRP.
What Happens When You Have a Muscle Strain?
If you’re dealing with pain radiating from any muscle, you may have been diagnosed with a muscle strain. However, you may not be clear on exactly what has happened to your muscle to create the symptoms you’re stuck with. A muscle strain is the result of torn or stretched muscle fibers. While it’s common in athletes, a muscle strain can technically happen for any reason. Simply moving the wrong way, picking up a large object, or chronically overusing a muscle at work can all cause muscle strain. Here’s a look at common signs of muscle strain:
- Acute or dull pain.
- Muscle spasms.
- Muscle cramps.
- A dent or gap in the outline of the muscle.
- Pain that increases when you move.
- Reduced motion.
Diagnosing muscle strain can be easier if you’re aware of the activity that caused your strain. For instance, an athlete may experience a noticeable “pop” at the moment of injury. Other people may actually feel the sensation of a muscle stretching until it tears. When diagnosing muscle strain, injuries are usually categorized into Grade I, Grade II, and Grade III tears based on the severity and nature of the tear. In many cases, a minor muscle strain will actually heal on its own with rest. However, some people are still dealing with painful symptoms and loss of movement months after their injuries occur. This is where a treatment like PRP can help to ramp up the body’s own ability to heal tissue on the cellular level.
What Is PRP for Muscle Strain?
PRP is a therapy that uses platelets from your own blood to spur tissue regeneration in an injured muscle. For many people, PRP is an attractive alternative to surgery because of its gentle, holistic nature. The potential risks, side effects, and long recovery times associated with surgery are simply not in play with PRP. PRP is also much less expensive than surgery.
During a PRP treatment, a vial of your own blood is taken. This blood is then placed in a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells from the white blood cells. Next, the white blood cells that make up your plasma are set apart. These blood cells are then centrifuged again to separate your platelet-rich plasma from your platelet-poor plasma. The final product is the platelet-rich plasma that will be injected back into your body during your PRP therapy. The reason why this platelet-rich plasma is so valuable is that it’s full of growth factors that are essential for speeding up the healing process. Growth factors promote the growth of new blood vessels to stimulate cell regeneration and tissue growth. This is precisely what makes PRP such an important therapy for people with tissue injuries. Additionally, these growth factors reduce inflammation.
You might be wondering why it’s necessary to inject platelets from your own blood back into your body when your body is already making platelets. The simple answer is that it’s impossible for your body to create the concentration necessary for rapid healing and generation. For the average person, the level of platelets in the blood hovers around 6 percent. A PRP injection introduces a concentration with a platelet level of 95 percent. Additionally, a PRP injection introduces platelets directly at the site of the muscle strain to supercharge the process of tissue regeneration.
Are There Any Risks to PRP Therapy for Muscle Strain?
PRP therapy is generally considered to be a very noninvasive, safe procedure. It is a much gentler option than something like surgery. It is also free of the risks that are associated with the long-term use of pain medications. Like all treatments and therapies, PRP does come with some safety considerations. It’s possible to experience swelling or tissue damage at the site of the injection. However, this is very rare. The fact that PRP uses your own platelets greatly reduces any chance of infection. There is also the added benefit that your body is very unlikely to reject its own platelets following injection.
The small chance for complications stemming from PRP therapy is actually quite negligible when you factor in the benefits of this therapy. Be assured that you will be informed of all potential risks and complications during a PRP consultation. If you are considering PRP treatments, you will also be evaluated to ensure that you’re a good candidate for this type of therapy. This will include a review of your full medical history. Your PRP treatment plan will actually be tailored specifically for you based on the severity of your muscle strain.
Can Other Treatments Be Used With PRP?
PRP doesn’t have to be your only avenue for healing a strain. While many people find success with PRP treatments alone, this treatment can actually be used in conjunction with other therapies and treatments. Of course, it’s always necessary to coordinate all treatments to ensure that there aren’t any conflicts. Here’s a look at some of the research regarding PRP’s effectiveness when combined with other treatments:
- Research shows that PRP injections can improve long-term outcomes following knee surgery.
- A 2014 study found that a single PRP injection combined with a rehabilitation program was significantly more effective in treating hamstring injuries than a rehabilitation program alone.
- Research points to the idea that an interdisciplinary approach to healing that includes PRP, manual therapy and exercise may be a quick and effective nonsurgical management strategy.
Is PRP a good option for you? If you’re dealing with pain or loss of mobility stemming from muscle strain, PRP is an option to consider. What’s more, PRP may be something that can help you to heal an injury even if other strategies have not yielded noticeable results. The next step is simply discussing your options with a care provider to determine how PRP fits into the larger picture for healing and recovery.