As a healthcare provider, you’ve likely received countless questions about the best – and quickest – way to help patients heal from their injuries. Many, if not most, patients prefer to avoid surgery if possible. Fortunately, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has gained popularity as a safe, conservative alternative to more invasive treatments like surgery.
But what about physical therapy? Physical therapy has numerous benefits. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of using a combination of PRP injections and physical therapy. We’ll also look at evidence from clinical trials and case studies.
PRP therapy provides high concentrations of growth factors that help regenerate tissue and heal wounds. And while many patients report significant pain relief and improvements in function with PRP alone, PRP is not an alternative to physical therapy.
PRP also doesn’t guarantee that patients won’t re-injure themselves. After all, if a particular incorrect motion led to an injury, the only way to prevent its recurrence is to teach the patient the correct way to move.
Simply put, physical therapy after PRP injections gives patients’ bodies the best chance of healing.
Here are some ways a physical therapist can help enhance the healing effects of PRP for your patients:
Each patient’s recovery will be different. In general, Dr. PRP recommends having patients rest for 7 to 10 days after their PRP procedure. To prevent joints from stiffening, encourage your patients to engage in gentle exercise with appropriate protection for the treated area. Light physical therapy once or twice a week may begin after this initial rest period.
During weeks 3 through 6, the patient’s exercise program can gradually progress, using pain as a guide. We don’t recommend having the patient push through pain as this can reinjure the tissue. After week 6, the patient will have hopefully regained full strength, but continued monitoring is recommended. Additional PRP injections may be used as necessary.
Only a few studies exploring the use of PRP with physical therapy have been published to date. But the evidence we have so far seems to suggest that the combination can be highly beneficial for patients.
In a 2014 publication, researchers compared the effects of a rehabilitation program alone to a combination of PRP and a rehabilitation program in athletes with an acute hamstring injury. Patients who received the combination therapy returned to play in an average of 26.7±7.0 days compared to 42.5±20.6 days in the rehab-only group. This significant difference demonstrates that PRP with physical therapy can help patients achieve faster recovery.1
A more recent study investigated the effectiveness of PRP combined with physical therapy for the treatment of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) osteoarthritis. Forty patients were assigned to either the PRP only group or the combination therapy (PRP + individualized physical therapy) group. Both treatments displayed significant improvements in pain intensity, maximum mouth opening, and temporomandibular joint sounds. However, the combined treatment group showed greater improvements in pain intensity, jaw function, and maximum mouth opening than the PRP only group.2
Several case studies have also been published presenting the benefits of PRP and physical therapy. In one, a patient with rotator cuff tendinopathy was treated with the combination for 10 weeks. The patient reported pain relief within a week of treatment and showed drastic improvement in function after the full treatment course.3
Together, the results from these studies demonstrate PRP combined with physical therapy can provide significant pain relief for patients and save them time and lost work.
Together, PRP and physical therapy can help stop an injury in its tracks. Encouraging patients to get physical therapy early on may also prevent further injuries, such as those that occur as the patient’s body compensates for its injury.
At Dr. PRP, we pride ourselves on our simple yet effective PRP centrifuge and kits. Our system produces 4cc of highly concentrated PRP, a yield higher than many similar PRP products on the market.
To learn more about how Dr. PRP products differ from our competitors’, check out our kits and centrifuges. You can also call us at (844) 377-7787 (DR-PRP-US) and we’d be happy to answer your questions.