Comparing PRP and Corticosteroid Injections: Which Option Will Work on Your Pain?

There’s no universal solution for pain relief. If you’re looking to treat pain stemming from strain or injury, you may be in the process of exploring different therapies that allow you to find relief without becoming overly dependent on medical interventions. Two pioneering options that are available today are PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections and corticosteroid injections. While the two are often lumped in together, they are actually quite different. However, they both share the same goal of relieving pain without extreme intervention. Here are some benefits to using injections for pain relief:

  • You may be able to postpone or avoid surgery.
  • You’re promoting your body’s own healing mechanisms.
  • You may be able to enhance the impact of adjustments, exercises and physical therapy by reducing inflammation in a targeted spot.
  • You can get pain relief without the need to rely on prescription or over-the-counter pain medications.
  • There is virtually no downtime needed following injections.

For many people, the best thing about getting an injection for pain relief is that they are able to see results with just a single in-office visit. They like the feeling of getting many pain-free months out of a single shot. While both corticosteroid shots and PRP treatments tend to produce results relatively quickly, some people do find that following up with additional injections is necessary for prolonged relief.

About PRP Injections

PRP is a natural treatment that relies on your own platelets to speed up healing. First, your own blood is drawn. It is then placed in a centrifuge to separate the platelets to create an ultra-concentrated therapy. Finally, the concentrated platelets are injected at the site of your injury. These platelets are full of growth factors that can stimulate cellular regeneration in the injured area. As a result, you experience faster, more significant tissue regeneration.

About Corticosteroid Injections

Corticosteroid is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring hormone called cortisol that is produced in the adrenal glands. It is commonly injected to stop inflammation. In fact, it is widely used in the treatment of a variety of painful inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. In our bodies, cortisol suppresses the inflammatory response of the immune system. However, synthetic corticosteroid shots appear to trigger even larger anti-inflammatory responses than naturally occurring cortisol.

PRP Injections and Corticosteroid Injections: Deciding Which Option Is Better

While both PRP and corticosteroid focus on reducing inflammation and pain, you’re actually getting different results. With corticosteroid injections, the pain relief is immediate. Injections can be extremely beneficial when you’re dealing with acute pain that is making it difficult to move. The immediate pain relief produced with these shots enables many people to resume movement and activities with essentially no pain.

PRP is a therapy that requires a bit more planning than standard corticosteroid shots. The emphasis is on creating long-term pain relief coupled with deep healing. When your own platelets enter the site of the injury, they get to work on promoting new tissue growth. This means that the treatment is actually helping your body to heal itself on a long-term basis to eliminate the need for further therapies and treatments down the road. Of course, some people do find that combining PRP therapy with chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy helps to speed up healing. By contrast, corticosteroid injections focus on providing temporary relief with the purposes of reducing inflammation and restoring mobility. Corticosteroid injections don’t offer the same tissue healing and regeneration offered by PRP treatments.

There are several reasons why a person might choose corticosteroid injections over PRP therapy. Generally, this is the preferred option if you’re looking for very immediate relief for acute pain. You may be looking for a way to be able to resume normal function ahead of a vacation or life event when selecting corticosteroid. Corticosteroid injections are also less expensive than PRP treatments. This can be a motivating factor if you’re looking for a very affordable one-time treatment option for getting out from under pain. If you’re thinking of getting corticosteroid shots, these are the key things to know:

  • Corticosteroid doesn’t technically trigger healing.
  • There is some concern than prolonged use of cortisol shots could damage your cartilage.
  • It’s generally suggested that you cap the number of cortisone shots you get to no more than a handful a year.
  • If you take blood thinners, you may be advised to stop taking them a few days prior to your shot to avoid excess bleeding or bruising.

People who choose PRP treatments are often looking for relief from an injury that is causing significant pain. Typically, PRP is thought of as an alternative to surgery. It is commonly used by people who have decided to avoid surgery after researching the side effects, recovery time and cost associated with surgery. PRP doesn’t have any significant recovery time associated with it. While you may be instructed to avoid strenuous workouts or training immediately after a PRP treatment, there are generally no restrictions on resuming normal activities following treatments. This is a relatively simply procedure that is done in the office. The injection process typically takes less than an hour. For many people who settle on PRP treatments to heal injuries, the biggest benefit is that PRP uses your own blood cells. This is significant because using your own blood greatly reduces the chances of infection. Additionally, the use of your own blood essentially eliminates any chance of your body rejecting the plasma. This makes PRP a very safe and holistic option that allows many people to enjoy restorative healing and regeneration without surgery.

Looking at the Outcomes Following PRP Injections and Corticosteroid Shots

Both PRP injections and corticosteroid injections have proven track records for reducing pain. In studies, PRP has been proven to have the edge over corticosteroid. One study from 2019 found that local PRP injections produced superior outcomes for reducing pain when compared to corticosteroids treatments among patients being treated for elbow-joint pain and function. It should be noted that this study measured outcomes based on the results reported by patients six months following treatment. This is in keeping with the general trend of PRP versus corticosteroid. It’s fairly common for peak corticosteroid benefits to taper off after three to six months. People who receive PRP treatments are often still going strong with pain relief a full 24 months following therapy. While corticosteroid injections produce more significant results it the short term, PRP is the clear “winner” when it comes to long-term, non-superficial results. Ultimately, PRP offers the double benefits of pain relief and deeper healing. However, you shouldn’t necessarily count on PRP for “instant” pain relief the way you might with a corticosteroid shot.

Making Your Decision

If you’re looking for an injection treatment that’s going to help relieve pain and inflammation, both PRP treatments and corticosteroid shots are worth considering. It’s important to look at your goals when determining which treatment is the better option. Consider working with a treatment provider who offers both PRP and corticosteroid shots. This will ensure that you’re getting unbiased information regarding both treatments. A care provider specializing in injections for pain relief is capable of making recommendations based on your medical history, the severity of your injury and the underlying cause of your injury.