Chronic knee pain, as a condition overall, affects 25% of all adults. The most common cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis or OA, typically caused by wear and tear over time. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis can be painful and difficult to treat; however, platelet rich plasma for knee pain is gaining popularity and is no longer reserved for professional athletes. Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is a regenerative medicine therapy intended to treat a variety of arthritic joint and tendon problems. This is huge for knee pain sufferers as knee pain is a leading contributor to patients’ decreased quality of life. It often limits their ability to walk, participate in hobbies, work, and take care of the household. PRP is here to help with knee pain.
PRP for Knee Pain - A New, Exciting Treatment Option
Over the last decade, platelet rich plasma, or PRP, has gained prominence as a preferred treatment option for athletes. It lets athletes recover from injuries faster and quickly return to the game. There is also a growing amount of medical literature supporting PRP for all patients with chronic knee pain beyond those on the court or field.
While Excel Pain and Spine providers are excited to introduce this treatment modality into our list of provided pain and injury solutions to help patients get the relief they need, this is not the only treatment option available for knee pain. Let’s review what other treatment options are available to you. Want to talk to a pain relief expert? Schedule your appointment today to discuss your options.
Traditional Knee Pain Treatments:
There are a variety of treatment options that have traditionally been used for chronic knee pain from osteoarthritis, and these are still great options:
Most patients start with physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication.
Further traditional options include injection therapies, including steroid injections and viscosupplementation.
Steroid injections like cortisone decrease inflammation and pain.
Hyaluronic acid is the primary component found in natural joint fluid.
Viscosupplementation uses a hyaluronic acid gel. This gel is injected into the joint to improve pain, lubricate the joint, and improve range of motion.
Genicular nerve radiofrequency ablation is another procedural option that has proven beneficial.
Surgery including arthroscopy and total joint replacement is typically used for refractory pain that does not improve with these conservative measures.
Now, to learn more about PRP.
About Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
It is essential to know that the body’s ability to heal injuries varies greatly depending on the injured tissue type and the blood flow to the tissue. Unfortunately, joint cartilage and tendons have poor blood supply making it difficult for the growth factors to be delivered where needed to heal the area of injury - this is where PRP can be an effective treatment. The process of injecting PRP directly to the site of pain supplies the injured joint or tissue with the growth factors it needs to accelerate tissue healing in ways the body could often not do on its own.
So, How Does It Work?
Platelet rich plasma is derived from each patient's blood. First, a sample of blood is drawn when a patient arrives at the clinic. This sample is centrifuged or spun down so that the different layers are separated. The platelet layer is identified and isolated. This platelet rich layer is rich with growth factors known as cytokines that accelerate the body's natural healing process. The PRP is then typically injected near or in the area of degeneration.
PRP can be repeated as many times as needed to gain a lasting result. Most patients typically receive 2-3 injections over 2 months to gain relief and improve function.
What Does It Feel Like?
The procedure is typically well-tolerated. A localized burning sensation from the anesthetic is commonly felt and is usually the most uncomfortable part of the process. During the procedure, a pressure sensation is often experienced that typically resolves within a few minutes. Patients are free to return to normal activities the next day and perform physical therapy as tolerated. Minor soreness for a week after the procedure is normal and is a sign of healing and repair.
What About Side Effects of PRP for Knee Pain?
Because PRP is a natural product derived directly from a patient’s blood, there is a lower risk of complications and side effects. Steroid injections carry the risk of increasing blood sugar in the diabetic patient population. Also, there is a risk of allergy with the viscosupplementation injections.
PRP does not have the associated risk of allergy as the injection comes from the blood products of the patient.
But, What Does the Scientific Community Think?
The medical literature around the use of PRP is growing and has found promising results for many medical benefits.
PRP has been applied and studied for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis (OA). A recent study found that PRP injections were more effective for pain relief and functional improvement than hyaluronic acid injections in the treatment of knee OA.
Let’s Discuss if PRP Is Right for You
In the past, PRP was regarded as an experimental treatment. However, many physicians now advocate for it to be the first injection tried due to its low risk and expanding promising data. The use of PRP is increasing to treat a variety of medical conditions, including back pain and even hair loss. PRP for knee pain is an effective pain relief treatment, not just for athletes any longer.
So, now that you know all about PRP and the research supporting it as a therapy for knee pain let’s figure out if it is an option for YOUR specific situation. The Excel Pain and Spine team has the expertise and experience to help provide PRP to treat your chronic knee pain. If you would like to request an expedited visit with our providers, please click here.