People who suffer from problems like muscle strains and sprains, arthritis and other musculoskeletal maladies often turn to platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy or prolotherapy for relief. Unfortunately, because both of these effective treatments are relatively new, many don’t know how each one works and what the key differences are between them.

In both, the injured or hurting person receives a series of injections in order to bring relief and healing. What exactly are the steps and methods that make up these two types of therapy and what should prospective patients know before making a decision? At the very least, you should be familiar with what PRP is and how it works. In addition, in order to compare PRP in terms of effectiveness and suitability for your particular situation, you’ll need to acquaint yourself with how prolotherapy works too.

If you have suffered an injury or need relief from a painful condition like arthritis, here is a short summary of how PRP and prolotherapy work, what they’re typically used for, and how they do what they do.

What Is Prolotherapy and How Does It Work?

Prolotherapy is a popular and widely “recognized orthopedic procedure” that both repairs and strengthens joints and all forms of connective tissue after they have become injured or are in a state of pain.

Prolotherapy got its name from the longer form of the term, “proliferative therapy.” It is a routine non-surgical approach that is similar, in many ways, to PRP. However, there are also key differences between the two approaches.

In prolotherapy, an irritative agent, usually consisting of a sugar-like substance, is injected into the area of concern. It is thought that this irritation helps jump-start the body’s healing response and lead to a faster recovery. One common result of prolotherapy injections is the creation of fresh collagen by the body. Collagen is able to help the joint area stabilize and get back to doing its job properly.

After that, the issues of inflammation and pain are usually resolved. One reason prolotherapy became so popular several decades ago was that it was one of the few alternatives to therapy for many patients. In addition, it has the ability to bring long-term relief, compared to pain medications that offer temporary relief at best.

The central mechanisms of prolotherapy and PRP are different. In the former, the body is “tricked” into producing collagen and stabilizing joints. In PRP, the body’s own platelets delivery a high dose of healing chemicals to the affected area and speed up the natural healing process. In both therapies, patients often notice slight inflammation for a few days after the injections and often return to the clinic for multiple treatments. However, people who opt for PRP usually receive fewer than 6 sessions of treatment while prolotherapy patients routinely receive 8 or more treatment sessions.

What Is PRP Therapy and How Does It Work?

PRP, as its name implies, uses the body’s own blood platelets to effect a remedy and bring relief to sufferers. PRP is a four-part process that usually starts out when a technician takes a small blood sample from your arm. After that, the sample is placed into a test tube and spun in a centrifuge.

The spinning causes all the components of your blood to separate. Eventually, after a few minutes in the machine, the fluid breaks down into four layers. The red and white blood cells are each in their own layers, while the platelets and the pure plasma are also in their own layers. At this crucial point in the process, a doctor will combine the platelets with the plasma so that it can be reintroduced into your blood via injection. But, before that, the doctor will adjust the platelet-rich plasma in order to calibrate it to your specific injection point. It’s common for people who undergo PRP to have slight swelling or moderate pain the next day, but that’s to be expected and usually abates after a short while.

Finally, in the simplest step of this preparation phase, the PRP will be injected back into your body where it begins to do its work or rejuvenating and healing damaged and aching tissue.

What Are the Two Therapies Used For?

It’s difficult to come up with a definitive list of exactly how and why each of these therapies is used. For one thing, new uses are being discovered all the time and unique patient situations often call for unique remedies. But in general, we can offer a short listing of the most common reasons that people and their doctors opt for one or the other type of treatment:

Prolotherapy is used to treat pain and injuries in:

  • Various ligaments and joints
  • The back
  • Shoulders
  • Hips
  • Knees

Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is usually employed to treat things like:

  • Tendonitis
  • Various kinds of arthritis
  • Common achilles tendinosis
  • Plantar fascia tears or related injuries
  • Chronic cases of plantar fascia problems
  • Peroneal tendonitis

Prolotherapy and PRP injections are relatively painless. Both types of therapy require a full medical history and a short screening process to see if a person is a good candidate for the treatment. There are certain kinds of preparation you need to do before both and a recommended list of things to do afterward as well. For example, both therapies require rest immediately afterward, for several days depending on the particular situation and condition that was treated.

You’ll need to consider how your pain originated, where on your body it is located and what your preference is for either PRP or prolotherapy. Sometimes you can choose either one, but there are many cases in which only PRP or prolotherapy will be indicated. The decision should only be made after you consult with a healthcare professional who has experience with both techniques.

But the good news is that neither one requires surgery, drugs or a hospital stay. Prolotherapy and PRP therapy are outpatient procedures. Both involve injections, but the essential difference is in what is being injected into the patient’s body. With PRP, it’s your own platelets mixed with plasma. In prolotherapy, it’s a sugar-based irritant that helps to stimulate the body’s own healing process.

How To Decide Which Method Is Right For You

Anyone who suffers from chronic or acute pain knows what it means to search for alternatives to surgery and short-term pain medications. At Delaware Integrative Health, our team of doctors and technicians are able to advise people who want to know the benefits of PRP and prolotherapy. Depending on your specific condition or type of pain, one or the other might be suitable for you.

The most important thing to do is meet with a doctor who has experience with your condition and find out exactly how PRP or prolotherapy might be the best way forward. If you have any questions about other points concerning these two strategies for reducing pain and getting you back into the mainstream of life again, without surgery or drugs, visit our office or call at your convenience.