Healing from injury, disease, or dysfunction is an incredibly complex process – yet we take it for granted as an expected result of unseen biological forces.
Content with standing idly by, most assume that we cannot use the tools we now have available to take proactive and decisive steps to enhance (or in some cases, begin) the healing process. If we are going to try and flip the script and take charge of our healing, it makes sense to start with the center of how the body heals physically – platelets.
Your platelets are one the first responders to injury. They are immediately drawn to the site and go to work releasing their granules filled with growth factors and an inflammatory cascade then ensues – kicking off the healing process. Growth factors, proteins, and various other substances released by the granules enable the body to heal, enable us to heal. Harnessing this innate power is easier than you think, and platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP) show incredible promise in the field of regenerative medicine. There is still a lot to find out about this cutting edge technique that has been used to remedy all kinds of cosmetic issues, musculoskeletal injuries, joint dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, and more, but you can bet you should at least consider looking into a treatment if you have any of these issues. Due to a current lack of standardization and consensus in the research, there is no definitive answer as to whether or not you as an individual should try PRP, or whether it will be effective for you and your unique issues. However, based on the incredible safety profile of PRP, it’s simple mechanisms of action, and the potential it has for healing various tissues, we recommend reading on and deciding for yourself.
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When you break it down to the nuts and bolts, the functional properties of PRP are mainly based on the creation and secretion of the many growth factors that are released by platelets after activation.
Platelets (or more technically, thrombocytes) are the body’s first response to injury and they quickly arrive at the site of damaged tissue to begin their work clotting blood and releasing various growth factors and other substances needed for repair. Some of the major growth factors released by the granules within platelets include:
After a patient’s own blood is drawn, it is placed in a centrifuge and spun to separate the blood from the plasma and its constituents, then the concentrated plasma is then reinjected into the targeted tissues. This process creates a concentration of platelets up to 10x what is normally found in whole blood and with all this growth-factor power concentrated into one specific area in the body, the healing process is able to be kickstarted or enhanced greatly.
It is important to note that a greater concentration of platelets does not necessarily mean better results!
Based on this incredibly straightforward (and yet, also complex) mechanism of action, it is easy to see why PRP may have the potential to change the way chronic pain, joint disintegration, wrinkles, erectile dysfunction, and many more disorders will be treated in the near future. Mechanisms aren’t the only impressive feature of PRP. In fact, there is plenty of clinical application for both musculoskeletal pathologies, as well as aesthetic use of PRP injections.
PRP may be instrumental in dealing with an incredibly pressing issue – one that impacts an estimated 50% of American adults.
PRP has been used extensively for the treatment of many musculoskeletal disorders but results have varied depending upon the individual and their specific issues. Research has concluded that PRP treatment can improve healing in soft tissues and bone – showing the most promise for afflictions like:
Unfortunately, there currently exists a lack of standardization amongst research techniques, effectively hindering any consensus from developing regarding the efficacy of PRP treatment. That hasn’t stopped those at the forefront of regenerative medicine from restoring tendons, ligaments, and joints at a fundamental level by releasing the potent growth factors available within PRP. To ensure the successful application of PRP for treating musculoskeletal dysfunction or degradation, a skilled practitioner will often utilize an ultrasound to guide the procedure. This technical prowess, as well as a thorough screening process to verify that PRP will be effective for an individual, is key to the successful application of a platelet-rich plasma treatment.
As PRP treatment advances and becomes more widely utilized, more and more benefits have begun to emerge – many of which are entirely backed by research and have been proven effective by actual application.
Taking into consideration the fact that the term rejuvenation can be used as a vague and generic defining characteristic, let’s start by clearly explaining exactly what we mean by it.
Rejuvenation is “the action or process of making someone or something look or feel better, younger, or more vital”. In this sense, PRP absolutely does rejuvenate tissues – allowing them to heal, and objectively improve based on a wide array of parameters.
It is widely known that the stimulative effects of PRP on fibroblasts (cells that create collagen and other connective tissues), as well as its ability to promote the secretion of hyaluronic acid and Type I procollagen are just a few of the mechanisms by which these treatments are able to vastly improve both the appearance and health of skin. PRP has even been used to enhance sexual function in both men and women. Basically, there are few tissues found thus far that won’t respond favorably to the skillful application of PRP. Luckily, there is plenty of objective research supporting it’s aesthetic efficacy.
In a systematic review of the cosmetic applications of PRP by Motosko, et. al., they concluded that platelet-rich plasma injections can reliably result in:
Overall, the majority of studies fully support the use of PRP as a beneficial treatment for facial aesthetics. It is also important to note, in most studies that have a wide age group, there is no significant difference found in positive response rates between those of younger age, and subjects of an advanced age. This highlights the fundamental power PRP has to work with our bodies, not against them like many modern approaches to “healing” tend to do. Our need to try any means of augmenting the healing process becomes increasingly dire as we age, due to our growing inability to complete the complex processes involved in restoring our bodies. You can certainly say that the research behind PRP is promising, but it is no less rife with disagreements.
Without a doubt, the largest obstacle to PRP being entirely proven effective (or disproven), is a lack of standardization within the research. Methods of concentrating platelets can vary greatly, resulting in subjects essentially receiving different doses in different studies. Also, there exists great individual differences in platelet numbers on any given day, which means those disparities will need to be controlled for in future research. This field is evolving rapidly and a more evolved understanding of the complex interaction between the immune system and signals from injured tissues has been accompanied by an increase in the use of PRP therapy to help heal musculoskeletal injuries, kickstart the rejuvenation of skin, improve sexual function, and a whole lot more.