Developed for heart surgery, autologous platelet rich plasma injections (or simply PRP injections) are increasingly used in sports medicine to help reduce the misery of foot pain and speed up the healing process.
What are platelets?
Your blood contains four main types of cells: red, white, plasma and platelets. Platelets contain small particles which help your blood stay healthy, and help it clot to stop bleeding after a cut. PRP injections provide a very high level of platelets – four to seven times higher than the 6 percent found in ordinary blood.
How do the injections work?
First, you’ll have blood drawn. Then, the platelets will be separated out using a machine called a centrifuge. Then the plasma that’s rich in platelets will be specially treated before being injected into the injured area.
- You may need more than one injection, with an interval of four to six weeks between each one.
- In some cases, the correct injection points may be pinpointed with the help of ultrasound imaging.
Who can be helped?
Most foot injuries have to do with the joints, muscles and tendons in the feet and ankles, and these are the types of problems for which PRP injections can be ideal. Your podiatrist will be able to tell you whether they’re right for you.
- People suffering pain from conditions such as ankle tendon injuries may experience relief with PRP injections.
- Because you’re being injected with your own blood, there is minimal chance of unwanted side-effects.
How effective are PRP injections?
Research has shown that injuries in areas such as the ankle, heel or the Achilles tendon can heal better after this treatment. This applies both to bone injuries and to those in softer tissue. They also seem to be effective in treating osteoarthritis.
- Some studies have suggested that a person receiving PRP injections will find damaged muscles healing more quickly.
- It’s important not to take any anti-inflammatory medication while receiving treatment, as this can reduce its effectiveness.