Your rotator cuff consists of four muscles with tendons that join to cover the head of your humerus and top of your shoulder. Rotator cuff muscles help to stabilize and move your shoulder joint. The rotator cuff is what enables you to lift and rotate your arm. Rotator cuff inflammation and tearing are often the result of repeated injury over a long period. The activities most likely to cause rotator cuff injury are those wherein you are required to raise your arms over your head. For example, rotator cuff injuries are common in sports like tennis; they can also occur if you fall on your shoulder or use your arm to break your fall.
How Does PRP Work?
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections are a relatively new nonsurgical therapy that can be used to treat a rotator cuff injury. Platelets are one of the components of your blood along with white blood cells and plasma that happen to be a rich source of proteins called growth factors. Our bodies use these growth factors in the healing process. PRP involves the use of platelets in a far greater concentration than is found in blood and may be concentrated by as much as a factor of 10.
In order to concentrate the platelets and thus the growth factors, the patient's blood is drawn and spun in a centrifuge. The amount of blood drawn depends on the severity of the injury and the desired concentration of platelets. Centrifugation separates the platelets from other blood cells. They are then added to blood and injected into the patient at the site of the rotator cuff injury. During the PRP injection procedure, the needle is guided to the exact point of the injury with the use of ultrasound image guideance.
In many cases, tendon injuries may not heal quickly because of poor blood flow to the area; in other words, the body is not able to get enough growth factors to the injury on its own. The result of the injection is that there are more growth factors at the point of the injury than there would be without PRP. Concentrating the growth factors provides the body with what it needs to heal itself.
PRP Therapy Recovery Time
The recovery period after PRP injections will last only a few days, whereas the recovery period after rotator cuff surgery may be as long as several months. Furthermore, there is no sling required after PRP injections the way there is after surgery. An additional benefit of PRP is the fact that there is no known link between the injections and arthritis; on the other hand, joint surgery has been tied to several cases of progressive osteoarthritis.
For the best possible outcome, you should undergo a rehabilitation program after receiving PRP therapy for your rotator cuff injury. After receiving the injection, you will be instructed to avoid exercise for a short period prior to starting your rehabilitation program.
PRP is Not Suitable for All Tendon Injuries
PRP is not effective for all types of rotator cuff injuries. For example, it may not be suitable for treating rotator cuff tears where the tendon has retracted. Retraction is the condition where the torn parts of the tendon have pulled too far from each other.
When seeking PRP therapy, it is important to choose a facility where the staff has experience in administering it. There are different ways in which PRP can be used and only those who are experienced in the administration of PRP will know them. For example, some doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication after PRP therapy, even though this is counterproductive since PRP is supposed to stimulate the body's own natural inflammatory response. Others may inject PRP in much the same way that they would a steroid injection and completely miss the area the platelet rich plasma needs to be. Experienced clinicians can ensure that the plasma gets to the right spot by using ultrasound image guidance and harvest the best possible PRP to ensure a safe and effective treatment regiment.
As with any form of medical treatment, you should consult with your physician before embarking on any treatment plan. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed accurate for the purposes of diagnosing your particular medical condition.