PRP: A Boon for Aging Baby Boomers and Their Joints

Treatment options for age-related joint problems like osteoarthritis have taken a giant step forward with the arrival of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections in recent years. This new therapy is here just in time to help today’s baby boomers stay active and avoid painful, stiff joints — without surgery or the risk of corticosteroid injections.

PRP injections safely heal soft tissues in your joints, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain. With just one injection that’s expertly administered by the doctors at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists in Bethesda and Germantown, Maryland, you can regain better joint function and keep that improvement for up to a year. So let’s talk about what PRP is and how it works.

What is PRP?

PRP consists of blood plasma that contains a higher concentration of platelets than your blood typically has. This is important because you need a concentrated amount of platelets to produce a therapeutic effect.

How do platelets in PRP treat joint damage?

Platelets are a normal component of your blood, where they’re best known for clotting blood when you’re injured. They have another vital job, however, because platelets are also rich sources of proteins called growth factors.

Just as their name suggests, growth factors trigger new cell development. They’re essential for the healing process, where they stimulate the production of many types of new tissues to replace old and damaged tissues.

As growth factors begin to speed up healing, they can:

How is PRP produced?

The team at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists makes PRP from your own blood. First they draw a blood sample and place it in a centrifuge. As the centrifuge spins your blood, the platelets  separate from other solid components like red blood cells, producing platelet-rich plasma.

When your PRP is ready, it’s placed into a needle, you get a local anesthetic, and the PRP is injected directly into your joint. Your doctor may give you an ultrasound-guided injection, which ensures the PRP pinpoints the damaged area.

After a PRP injection, the platelets go to work, stimulating new cell growth and healing. It takes a little time for new tissues to develop, so it may be a few weeks before you notice an improvement.

What joint conditions are treated with PRP?

PRP helps heal injured tendons, ligaments, and muscles. If you suffer a sprain or strain, especially if you repeatedly damage the same soft tissues, PRP can speed healing. It you tear a ligament and need surgery, your orthopedic surgeon may use PRP following surgery to speed up the healing.

PRP injections for knee osteoarthritis significantly lessen symptoms, such as alleviating pain and stiffness while recovering physical function. The results often last up to 12 months after your PRP treatment.

Although knee osteoarthritis is one of the biggest joint problems facing baby boomers, PRP injections effectively treat a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions. You can benefit from PRP injections for many joint concerns, such as tennis elbow, ligament damage in your knees, and a damaged rotator cuff or impingement syndrome in your shoulder.

When should baby boomers consider PRP for their joints?

As you get older, you lose muscle mass and strength, cartilage thins and dries out, connective tissue loses elasticity, and bones begin to weaken. These factors leave you at a higher risk of developing joint problems such as osteoarthritis.

You can slow down age-related changes by eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise. Your genetics also have a lot to do with your joint health as you get older. In other words, everyone ages at a different pace and to varying degrees.

The key is to talk with the team at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists whenever you first notice joint problems — pain, stiffness, less range of motion, and inflammation. After giving you a thorough examination, the physicians can determine whether you’re a good candidate for PRP injections.

PRP injections are one of today’s most advanced nonsurgical treatments for soft tissue injuries and degenerative joint disease. Athletes often rely on PRP injections to help them stay in the game, and they can also work for you, keeping you active and enjoying a vigorous life in spite of age-related joint damage.

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