Imagine you have severe joint pain in both of your knees. It is the result of an old high school injury that continues to plague you in middle age. What do you do? Perhaps your doctor suggests you undergo one of four different injection treatments. You get to choose which one.
Your doctor recommends either corticosteroid injections, hyaluronic acid (HA) injections, prolotherapy, or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. Each of the four choices offers a different solution for your knee pain. Before you can make a choice, you have to know how each therapy is purported to work.
The purpose of this illustration is to help readers understand that not all injection therapies work the same way. In fact, they are all different. Keep reading to learn how PRP injections differ from the other three choices listed here. According to Salt Lake City’s Apex Biologix, PRP therapy is remarkably different in its goals and medical basis.
Many people suffering from chronic joint pain are encouraged to undergo corticosteroid injections. A corticosteroid is a type of synthetic cortisone that helps to reduce inflammation. When injected into or near painful joints, the anti-inflammatory effects of the drug can reduce pain. However, pain reduction is only temporary. Most people who choose corticosteroids have to receive injections every 3 to 6 months.
Hyaluronic Acid Injections
Where corticosteroid injections seek to relieve pain by reducing inflammation, HA injections seek to reduce pain and inflammation by replacing lost fluid in damaged joints. That lost fluid normally acts as a natural lubricant between joints. So if the body isn’t producing enough of it, joint pain is inevitable.
HA injections are limited to painful knees and usually not recommended until corticosteroids prove ineffective. Like corticosteroids, HA injections offer only temporary relief.
Prolotherapy offers an entirely different way of looking at chronic joint pain. The whole idea behind it is to encourage inflammation rather than reducing it. Why would you want to do that? Because inflammation plays a key role in jump-starting the healing process.
It is believed by prolotherapy proponents that reducing inflammation solely for the purposes of relieving pain actually makes joint injuries worse by discouraging healing. Prolotherapy seeks to do the opposite. A typical prolotherapy treatment involves injecting an irritant into the affected joint every 2 to 6 weeks for several months. Combining the injections with physical therapy promotes both healing and strengthening of the joint.
‘PRP’ is an acronym that stands for platelet-rich plasma. As such, PRP therapy is one that involves injecting the affected joint with platelets and growth factors taken directly from the patient being treated. The therapy’s medical basis is an understanding of the role platelets and growth factors play in the healing process.
Science has already proven that platelets and growth factors encourage faster wound healing. That is why surgeons have been using PRP injections to promote post-surgery wound healing for decades. And by the way, this use of PRP therapy is one that medical insurance actually covers.
Knowing what we know about PRP therapy and wound healing, it stands to reason that platelets and growth factors might also help promote healing in damaged and diseased joints. It turns out that such healing is the goal when PRP injections are used to treat joint pain.
Patients suffering from chronic joint pain can choose from several different kinds of injection therapies. Some of those therapies treat only the symptoms of joint pain while others seek to encourage the body to heal the underlying problem. PRP therapy is part of the latter category.