Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: What do you think of platelet-rich plasma therapy?

Q. What's your professional opinion of platelet-rich plasma therapy for soft tissue injuries? Is it safe for older adults?

A. Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRPT) is an unproven approach to treating chronic pain due to orthopedic injuries. It involves injecting platelets and plasma taken from a person's own blood into injured tissue to stimulate the body's repair mechanisms. It's used for acute injuries in elite athletes as well as pain in non-athletes that doesn't respond to standard therapies, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections, physical therapy, or surgery.

When a tendon, muscle, or ligament is injured, the body starts its healing process with inflammation, followed by the growth of new cells and the creation of a network of collagen fibers and protein molecules that restructures and strengthens the tissue. The process is coordinated by growth factors and other proteins that signal cell repair, many of which are contained in platelets, the blood cells responsible for clotting. The idea behind PRPT is that platelets accelerate the natural healing process because they contain growth factors in concentrated doses. The exact mechanism is still under investigation.

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