Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: Does platelet-rich plasma therapy work for tennis elbow?

Q. You wrote about platelet-rich plasma therapy for chronic tendon problems. Has there been any news since then? I ask because I'm thinking about it for my tennis elbow.

A. Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRPT) is a technique in which platelets and plasma are drawn from a person's own blood and injected into injured tissue to stimulate the body's repair mechanisms. It's been used to treat chronic tendon problems as well as acute injuries in athletes. Reports of success in treating professional athletes have spurred interest in the technique for treating tendon problems in others as well.

PRPT looked promising when we wrote about it. It makes biological sense, since platelet-rich plasma contains growth factors and other proteins that aid in cell repair. Laboratory evidence as well as anecdotal reports also suggest improved healing. But a randomized, placebo-controlled trial published in 2010 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) put the effectiveness of PRPT in question. Dutch researchers studied 54 people with chronic Achilles tendon pain. Half received PRPT, half received injections of salt water, and all performed rehabilitation exercises. After six months, there was no difference between the two groups.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »