The term arthritis refers to more than 100 different diseases that have some common elements. All the different types of arthritis affect your joints, and they are all painful. Researchers are pursuing new treatments all the time, and two have shown promising results.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapies are both proving to be effective treatments for some people with arthritis. Although neither has been recognized in any guidelines as a treatment for arthritis, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that these treatments can help some people. And just as important, both therapies pose low risk to patients.
At Urgently Ortho, we offer PRP and stem cell therapies for the treatment of arthritis. Here’s what we think you should know about both.
Platelets are specialized cells in your blood that play a key role in repairing damage. Most of the time, they just circulate in your blood, along with the red, white, and plasma cells. When one of your blood vessels is damaged, it sends out a signal, and the platelets switch into an active state and rush to the site of the damage. In other words, platelets help you heal.
To obtain platelet-rich plasma, we draw some of your blood. It’s then processed in a special machine that separates the various elements, and we create a solution of plasma that’s filled with healing platelets. We then inject the PRP where it’s needed.
PRP therapy has been performed in various medical applications for years. For example, it’s often used during surgeries to repair ruptured tendons.
Now doctors are finding some success using PRP to treat arthritis, particularly knee osteoarthritis. The theory is that the platelets slow or even stop the damage to the cartilage in your joints.
PRP may be able to slow the inflammation of your joints, increase fluid production in your joints, and possibly even stimulate your body to produce new cartilage.
The risks associated with PRP are low, in part because it’s your own blood so your body is unlikely to react to it. And though PRP therapy involves injections, it’s not a surgical procedure.
In some ways, stem cell therapy is similar to PRP, but it makes use of a different kind of cell that your body naturally creates.
Stem cells are sometimes called master cells. They have two unique characteristics compared to other types of cells: They can divide themselves endlessly, and they can become other types of cells as needed.
Stem cells can become muscle, skin, cartilage, bone, or other types of cells when your body needs them. When we use stem cells to treat arthritis, we inject the stem cells into your damaged joints, where they can become cartilage or bone cells, reducing the damage and possibly stimulating new growth.
We can harvest stem cells from your adipose (fat) tissue, from your blood, or from your bone marrow. Researchers are still trying to learn the differences between stem cells from those areas and which might be best to treat different conditions.
In the meantime, doctors are using stem cells to treat several different types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. As with PRP therapy, the risks associated with stem cell therapy are low, and some patients have seen impressive benefits.
If you have questions about either of these innovative therapies in the treatment of arthritis, or if you’d like to find out if you may be a candidate for treatment, book your appointment online or by calling us at Urgently Ortho. Our experts are happy to answer your questions and discuss your specific situation.