Ankle injuries can sometimes have an arduous healing process. In addition to making it hard to walk, some ankle injuries can destabilize your balance in the long term. It’s essential that you do everything you can to regain your normal function.
PRP treatment is an option that might be available to you. It works best when you integrate it with other traditional therapies like rest, heat, cold, and gentle exercise. But what exactly is PRP treatment, and why do people use it for ankle injuries?
PRP is an abbreviation that stands for platelet-rich plasma. To understand this, you’ll need to understand what plasma and platelets are.
Plasma is an essential component of your blood. Instead of having the red color that we usually associate with blood, plasma is totally clear. This fluid carries components like your red and white blood cells wherever they need to go.
Your plasma is a natural source of vital proteins. These substances are used by the body to create new cell growth. Not only is protein essential for building muscle, but certain proteins can be a vital component of the healing process.
Platelets are another component found in your blood. These compounds help your blood to clot when you have an injury. They’re the reason that basic scrapes and cuts stop bleeding when pressure is applied.
So what exactly is platelet-rich plasma? Well, as the name implies, it is a concentrated type of plasma that has extra proteins and platelets.
PRP is typically injected into the body to help speed the recovery process after an injury. The components in the plasma are able to work around the injury, so you heal more quickly. It’s common for PRP treatment to be used on injuries in the foot and ankle.
A PRP injection might help to reduce pain from the injury, as well as aid in muscular recovery. That’s especially important for people who are on their feet all day. You don’t want to accidentally re-injure your ankle by walking on it before it’s healed properly.
Ultimately, a successful PRP injection will help achieve these goals:
- The natural healing process of the body will be stimulated.
- Pain around the injury will be partially alleviated as it heals.
- The body will function better and have better muscle responses.
- The patient will have a little “boost” to their healing while they rest and recover from the injury.
Keep in mind that PRP is not a miracle cure. It cannot replace the other therapies you need for your injury. Don’t treat the process as something that will heal you well enough to start walking around within a day.
How PRP Treatment Works
When you undergo this treatment process, your doctor will take your blood to create the PRP. This is less risky than using donated blood or synthetic material. There’s very little chance of your body reacting badly to an injection of its own blood components.
The beginning of the treatment process will involve giving blood. Usually, this is set up just like a normal blood test, with the blood being harvested from a vein in the elbow or hand.
After drawing the blood, the vials of the liquid will enter a centrifuge. This is a device that spins so fast that it separates the plasma from the other components.
Your doctor will use the separated parts of your blood to make the PRP substance. They’ll use the harvested plasma as the base, and they may introduce other components. Depending on the treatment, your doctor might add calcium chloride or thrombin to the PRP.
Though you won’t always find these components normally in your blood, they are helpful when it comes to PRP. The substances allow your platelets to work more quickly to clot around the injury.
The Injection Process
After the PRP mixture has been created, you’re ready to receive your injection. Your doctor will sanitize the area of your body that is being injected. Then they will use a needle and syringe to inject PRP.
In some cases, your doctor might choose to use ultrasound technology to get a look at the injury. This helps in cases of inflammation and other injuries where the exact problem area is difficult to pinpoint. By looking for soft tissue injuries with the ultrasound, your doctor can guarantee that you get the most effective treatment.
The risks involved with a PRP procedure are relatively minimal. Because the injection uses your blood, you don’t have to worry about having a bad reaction to the substance. You might experience some itching or irritation around the injection site itself, but this is normal.
When you’re given a PRP injection for an ankle injury, your next step is to rest. You should follow your doctor’s advice with regards to ice, heat, elevation, and activity. If you’re not supposed to be on your feet, try to arrange to have a helper who can take care of things for you.
You may also be given an order for physical therapy sessions. This largely depends on the type of injury and its severity. Physical therapy is used to help strengthen your muscles and stabilize your ankle after a serious injury.
Your ankle might need to be bandaged, or you might need to wear a brace. You can talk to your doctor about whether your particular injury requires any special stabilizing measures.
Common Ankle Injuries
There are a variety of common ankle injuries that can benefit from PRP treatment. These range from potentially serious sprains to chronic inflammation. Here are some of the top ones:
- Sprained ankles
- Torn tendons
- Plantar fasciitis
- Complications following an ankle surgery
A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments in your ankle are damaged. Some sprains are worse than others. You typically sprain the joint when you accidentally “roll” your ankle over uneven ground. This wrenches the ligaments past their normal range of motion, resulting in an injury.
PRP injections might be used to cut the recovery time for a sprain. Depending on the severity, some sprains might take several months to heal. It’s possible that a patient with PRP treatment will have a shorter recovery time frame than one without.
A torn tendon in your ankle, calf, or foot can cause serious issues. But did you know that you can tear your tendon without even realizing it? Maybe you ended up with a bad muscle strain one day. It took a few days or even a week to go away.
That might have been an injury known as a microtear. Microtears are tiny rips in your tendon. They typically heal up by themselves, but too many microtears can cause ongoing issues with inflammation. You might feel unusual stiffness and pain in the affected area.
Where the foot is concerned, the most common tendon injuries happen with the Achilles tendon or the peroneal tendon. If you have a peroneal tendon injury, you’ll experience pain at the outside of the ankle. If you have an Achilles tendon injury, you’ll experience pain in your calf.
The most common cause of these inflammatory conditions is an overuse injury. You might have strained your muscles or done too much repetitive motion.
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that causes pain in the heel. This pain is especially prevalent when you first get up in the morning after lying down.
The cause is inflammation of your plantar fascia. This soft tissue runs along the bottom of your foot to connect your bones together.
People often describe the pain as being stabbing. It might decrease as you walk around, but if you sit for a long period of time, the pain often returns once you stand back up.
There are many different types of surgery that might be performed on the ankle and foot. Sometimes the site of the incision takes longer to heal than anticipated. Doctors use PRP treatment to aid in the ongoing recovery process.
PRP treatment is not a replacement for conventional medicine. But it can be used as an important supplemental tool when you’re recovering from ankle injuries. Depending on the injury, you could see your recovery time shortened by several weeks.