Platelet-rich plasma injections for knees: how they can help
Blood platelets and white blood cells contain proteins
factors that help damaged tissue recover after an injury. PRP
injections for knees contain a high concentration of platelets. PRP treatment
starts with your clinician removing some of your blood and putting it into a
machine called a centrifuge. The centrifuge separates the platelets from the
other parts of your blood, and those platelets are then injected back into your
knee. It's unclear how PRP therapy works, but the theory is that the growth
factors in platelets reduce inflammation and help tissue repair itself.
According to the American
Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, PRP injections have few risks other than
pain at the injection site.
First line of defense for knee injuries
Not all insurance providers cover the cost of PRP treatment,
so your provider might recommend more conservative treatments before opting for
PRP for your knee
The RICE method can successfully treat many injuries. It
Rest: Allowing time for the injured knee
to heal by avoiding weight-bearing activities
Ice: Applying ice packs to reduce pain
Compression: Wrapping the knee to
Elevation: Keeping the knee elevated to
further reduce swelling
If RICE doesn't help, your provider might recommend a knee
brace, physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or some
combination of those treatments.
PRP injections might be an option if your knee injury
doesn't respond to those treatments.
Knee injuries that can benefit from PRP
Currently, PRP injections are used to treat muscle and
ligament injuries, including:
ACL sprains — injuries resulting from
sudden stops or changes in direction during sports activities
Meniscus injuries — swelling and
stiffness often caused by sports-related trauma or wear and tear
Runner's knee — a painful condition
related to overuse, misalignment, or weak quadriceps muscles
PRP injections are sometimes used after surgeries, such as
meniscus repairs, to speed healing. There's some evidence PRP therapy can help
treat knee osteoarthritis, a chronic joint condition, but success largely
depends on the type of PRP injection used and the level of joint deterioration
in the knee.
What to expect from PRP knee injections
The PRP injection process takes about an hour, and many
people can return home the same day. While mild pain, redness, or swelling might
occur at the injection site, serious side effects are rare. The effects of PRP
are usually noticeable within four to six weeks, with continued improvements
over six to nine months as the platelet-rich plasma continues to provide growth
factors to support healing.
Overcoming a knee injury
It can take time to get back in action after a knee injury. If
you return too quickly, your injury might get worse.
Follow your clinician's advice, whether you have a PRP injection or another treatment to keep your knees healthy and protect them from a future injury.
Knees bothering you? Request an
appointment with a Reid
Health orthopedic surgeon to find out if PRP injections could
get you back in the game.