Two of the most promising and effective treatments for a wide variety of medical problems are platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy and stem cell treatment. While the two procedures have many things in common, there are also key differences you should know about if you are considering either one.

Of course, one of the major similarities is that both therapies have become extremely popular in the past decade for all sorts of physical challenges, injuries and other conditions. Another relevant point is that both PRP and stem cell treatment have solid medical research evidence backing up their efficacy. In order to get a handle on the differences, it’s helpful to first take a look at how each treatment regimen works, in the most basic way.

How Does PRP Therapy Work For People Who Choose It?

The key to understanding how PRP works is to begin by listing the four things that make up human blood: platelets, white cells, red cells and plasma. By using a process of separating out plasma that contains high concentrations of platelets, practitioners can then use this “platelet-rich plasma” by reintroducing it into the body, via a common injection, in order to treat a number of different conditions.

In order to obtain the platelet-rich plasma, a small blood sample is removed from a person and then spun in a centrifuge. The high rate of speed allows centrifugal force to pull out the platelets and remove them from the sample. After that, they are added to the pure plasma to create PRP.

PRP therapy works because the body’s blood platelets contain vast amounts of natural growth factors and other assistive nutrients like cytokines and certain proteins. The result is that soft tissue and bone matter is stimulated into a faster growth pattern. That’s why people often turn to PRP therapy when their condition calls for cell repair. The end result typically includes significant reductions in general and location-specific pain as well as less inflammation.

More precisely, PRP therapies are a four-part process that begins with a simple blood draw followed by the separation of the sample in a centrifuge. The third stage takes place when the doctor adjusts the platelet-rich plasma sample so that it suits the patient’s particular condition. Last, medical professionals inject the PRP into the site of the injury to effect a beneficial result.

One of the more common, but certainly not only, uses for PRP therapy includes sports injuries. You have likely heard of several popular athletes who turn to PRP therapy in order to return to their respective sports sooner, and with a less complicated regimen of treatment. Many choose PRP options in order to avoid “going under the knife,” or enduring a surgical procedure. For the most part, it is acute conditions, not chronic ones, that respond best to PRP therapy. As noted below, chronic pain often responds better to stem cell treatment or a form of stem cell treatment in conjunction with PRP therapy.

How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work?

Doctors obtain stem cells in a totally different way than the method they use to extract PRP from a patient. Stem cells are taken from the body’s fat cells or, in some cases, bone marrow. One of the uniquely powerful characteristics of stem cell treatment is that it can help cartilage to regrow and can assist the body’s process of healing joints that suffer from arthritis.

The so-called “adult” stem cells, technically named mesenchymal stem cells, are able to act in place of just about any other kind of growth agent in the body, meaning that they can virtually initiate growth and regeneration anywhere they are located.

In scientific terms, these specialized cells are like a blank page, waiting for orders on how to perform and being regrowing nearby cells. Whether an injury is located in skeletal tissue, cartilage or bone, doctors can simply remove mesenchymal cells from one part of the body and put them wherever they’re needed to begin the regrowing and healing process.

What Are the Primary Differences Between the Two Forms Of Therapy?

Of course, the obvious similarity is that both PRP and stem cell therapy work to rejuvenate, regrow and regenerate tissue that has been injured or damaged in some way. The differences are many. For example, PRP is certainly not a form of cell therapy. Instead, clients who opt for PRP typically suffer from lower-grade injuries that are acute.

It’s important to keep in mind that many conditions respond well to the simultaneous use of both therapies. Stem cells are not taken from blood but from the body’s adipose, or fat, tissue. The central difference between the two methods is in the way each one works. PRP therapy is known for its regenerative and anti-inflammatory results while stem cell treatments work because the stem cells are able to differentiate into many different cell types and begin a new growth process.

Conditions Treated By PRP and Stem Cell Therapy

There is a long list of physical ailments and other kinds of conditions that PRP and stem cell therapies can be effectively used for. Not all enjoy the same popularity because many of the items on the lists below are quite rare or have other, equally promising treatment modalities. Finally, there are some conditions that are treatable by either therapy, or by using the two approaches in conjunction. In any case, here is a brief look at how the medical community uses each one of these valuable therapies, both individually and together:

PRP is often used for:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tendon injuries and tears
  • Strains and sprains of most kinds of muscle tissue
  • Surgical supplementation
  • Facials and skin regeneration

Stem cell therapy is often used for:

  • Transplantation of bone marrow
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Brain and spinal cord injuries
  • Frailty syndrome
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • ALS
  • Stroke recovery
  • Traumatic brain injuries

Medical professionals often use PRP and stem cell therapy in conjunction with each other to treat conditions like:

  • Joint-based arthritis
  • Various conditions related to the spine
  • Injuries that result from overuse
  • Tears of the rotator cuff
  • Chronic inflammation that results from herniated discs
  • Tendonitis

How To Decide Whether PRP or Stem Cell Therapy Is Right For You

If you want to avoid an invasive surgical procedure, it’s only logical that you might wonder about trying either PRP or stem cell therapy. Whether you are an athlete or not, there are significant advantages to avoiding surgery, including quicker recovery time, lower overall cost, less risk of side effects and more.

At Delaware Integrative Medicine, our professionals can spend time with you to find out your goals and intentions with regard to your therapy options. We always work to inform prospective clients about all the pertinent aspects of whatever kind of therapy is right for them, help them understand the benefits of each approach and stand ready to answer any questions they have. We look forward to helping you choose the therapeutic treatment that delivers the best results for your particular situation.