Knee pain can be relentless. It is not only due to wear and tear on the knees as we age but a host of other problems. Old injuries, arthritis, or diseased cartilage can bring on shooting pain and weakness of the knees. Short of surgery, patients have had to live with the discomfort of knee pain until now.
What is PRP Therapy?
Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) is a combination of introducing irritants into the body while releasing blood platelets into the affected area. By causing inflammation with irritants, the site is pinpointed for the direct release of fresh growth factors through blood platelets. In other words, the body is capable of healing itself when the proper method is used.
This reasoning is nothing new. Discovered over 2,100 years ago, intentionally creating inflammation was used by physicians in order to scar damaged areas. The body would then receive fresh blood and the healing process would begin. It is a simple and uncomplicated way to treat areas that are plagued with swelling, pain, and arthritis. So simple, in fact, that it wasn’t until 1950 for doctors to take notice of its worth.
How it Works
Healthy blood cells are introduced into areas of inflammation and replace the old tired ones. As a result, the cytokines and mitogens found within the platelets begin a rejuvenation process. The production of fibroblasts takes place as well as tissue repair to the affected area.
Types of Knee Injuries/Conditions Used by PRP Therapy
There is a wide range of knee problems that can limit everyday life. The knees are responsible for the movement and weight-bearing of our entire body. When a problem occurs in the muscles, bones, ligaments, or tendons, the benefits provided us from knees are compromised.
Many people do not realize the complexity of the knee until it stops performing well. Here are some facts to provide respect to this body part:
- The knee is the most complex joint in the body.
- The knee is the largest joint in the body.
- The kneecap, thigh bone, fibula, and shinbone all rely on the knee.
- The knee is encased in fluid, making it a synovial joint.
- A direct blow to the knee is considered a very serious injury.
Taking for granted the health of knees is a huge mistake as many with knee injuries have come to find out. There are many conditions that can limit the knee’s function. Some of these include:
- Cartilage that is diseased
- Joint arthritis
- Dislocation of the kneecap
- Torn muscle
- Baker’s cyst
Signs of Knee Problems
The most obvious sign that your knee is in distress is pain. This could occur right after an injury or something more subtle, like arthritis in a muscle. Other signs include:
- Swelling around the kneecap
- The knee becoming unstable
- Stiffness in the knee joint
- Popping or clicking sounds with movement
- Unable to straighten the knee
Does PRP Therapy Help all Knee Problems?
Since PRP is a fairly new type of therapy, few proven studies have yet to be conducted. There are certain factors that are still being used as a basis on how this procedure is beneficial. The most critical part seems to come from using a patient’s own blood. There is no danger of introducing foreign DNA or unaccepted plasma into the affected area. However, initial testing on the worthliness of how protein-rich your blood is can put the entire process on hold.
Patients with underlying conditions, like cancer, cerebral palsy, or Parkinson’s disease. A current infection or multiple medical issues may also make PRP therapy injections not possible. This only makes sense since the platelets to be used have been compromised by internal rejections. Some physicians like to perform a series of blood work analysis before recommending treatment. Checking the levels of micronutrients, like vitamin B12, Magnesium, Copper, and Zinc can help to determine how rich in vitamins your blood is.
Not every condition of the knee has been clinically tested, but those that have, found positive results. Animals were used for bone and muscle movement. But because animals do not have the same makeup as humans, the results could not be accepted. The American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation have also noted that because this treatment has not been standardized according to their guidelines, they cannot recommend this form of treatment on humans.
The results, as positive as they may seem, do not have a history of providing the same results on all patients. Some patients see results in a matter of days while it can take months for others. The degree of benefit also varies. Without anything to measure the progress against, it can be difficult to measure the benefits. However, since 2006, studies have been proving the improvement in swelling and pain with little to no side effects.
While the knee has been the main focus of testing and use of PRP Therapy, other parts of the body have been used for study. Shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hips are other areas where this type of less-invasive treatment could prove beneficial.
How is the PRP Treatment Done?
Your physician begins the procedure by drawing blood from a vein in the arm. Special equipment then separates the blood to produce platelet-rich plasma. This plasma is then injected into the affected area. Sometimes an ultrasound is used to further pinpoint the actual area of pain and inflammation. There is no pain associated with any of these procedures.
After Treatment Instructions
Care must be taken after an injection to help the knee in its regrowth process. Here are some suggestions that your provider may suggest:
- Keep weight on the knee joint to a minimum.
- Wear a splint for the first two weeks to help stabilize the joints and muscles.
- Do not take inflammatory medications, like aspirin, that could interfere with the healing process.
- Use a cold compress to increase the blood flow.
- Keep the knee elevated by a pillow as you rest and sleep.
A physical therapy program may be introduced once the knee has gained back flexibility. Your physician can advise you on this.
PRP treatment for knee pain is a new and exciting type of nonevasive therapy program that can keep you from facing surgery or years of pain. As more and more case studies are being done, we are seeing the positive results of how PRP can be your answer in using a healthier way to treat injuries and disease. If you have been unsuccessful with cortisone injections or anti-inflammatory drugs, or even arthroscopic surgery, maybe it’s time to try PRP treatment for knee pain. There are many qualified Orthopaedics that have experience in using this form of treatment.
While PRP treatment is not FDA-approved, it can legally be offered as a clinic off-label in the USA. The classification is for a myriad of musculoskeletal indications including the knee. Speak with your physician today for a list of studies that can further help you understand how PRP treatment can aid your knee pain.