A powerful injury healer and pain reliever may run through our veins, an idea that more and more medical fields are beginning to grasp onto.

For more than a decade, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) has been used by medical professionals. To create PRP, doctors take a small amount of blood from the patient and put it on a centrifuge to concentrate it. Then that concentrate is injected into the injured area on the patient’s body, after appropriate local anesthetic.

Studies show that PRP therapy often works to accelerate and direct healing, due to growth factors that the platelets secrete. Growth factors, usually proteins or steroid hormones, act as signals to other cells, to stimulate growth. They come in many varieties, such as for connective tissue, epidermal, insulin and vascular endothelial growth.

PRP therapy is often used for athletes. More than 86,000 athletes receive the therapy each year according to researchers at Stanford. Included on the list of athletes who’ve received it: Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and Tiger Woods.

But the therapy is used for a wide variety of problems. For example, a recent study from the Rothman Institute of the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital looked at how PRP therapy was effective at treating people with tennis elbow. They gathered 230 patients who had been suffering from tennis elbow for at least three months. Half of the participants received PRP therapy. At 24 weeks, the PRP group reported 71 percent improvement, while the control group reported 56 percent improvement. The PRP group also reported less tenderness of the elbow during the months following their treatment.

PRP therapy can also be effective for back injury, as damage to the many different tissues of the back can be the source of pain. Platelets can reduce pain, strengthen joints and repair ligaments and tendons in the back. This may be a way for people to avoid more serious treatment, such as surgery.

PRPSMART

Blood samples are put in a centrifuge, which spins to concentrate the platelets.

The treatment for back and sports injuries is simple, due in part to the fact that the patient himself carries the substance needed for the therapy to work. It is usually performed on an out-patient basis, and is completed in about an hour. The doctor may have patient take precaution in protecting the site of the injection, after the injections are given. Usually 3-5 injections are given, spread out over the course of treatment. Some pain may be experienced for a week or two after treatment, in the location where the platelets were received.

According to research from Shantou University Medical College, PRP therapy has shown promise for nerve regeneration, which involves regrowth of injured axons, the restoration of synaptic connections and the recovery of some physiological functions. Researchers from Hiroshima University in Japan have found similar results, showing that PRP may be effective for spinal cord injuries.

Dentists also have been known to use platelets.

This therapy shows promise for many different areas of medicine, and may be the future of pain relief and injury recovery.

The SMART Clinic, located in Sandy and also serving the greater Salt Lake City area, offers individualized PRP therapy for numerous spine and sports related injuries, including disk injection therapy and even post surgery ligament/tendon protocols.