The body comes with incredible power to heal itself, but sometimes it needs an added boost. Platelet-rich plasma therapy offers an innovative form of regenerative medicine to accelerate tendon healing and decrease arthritic pain.

“The idea is that a lot of injuries don’t heal well because they don’t receive adequate blood flow. Blood contains certain markers that let our bodies know an injury needs attention and help; so less blood flow means less healing,” explained Dr. Tyler Hedin, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at the East Falls Clinic. “Our tendons and joints are notorious for not getting a lot of blood flow. That’s why we’re bringing platelet-rich plasma, a mixture from the patient’s own blood, directly to the problem areas.”

Regenerative medicine focuses on regrowing, repairing or replacing damaged cells. With platelet-rich plasma therapy, that revival occurs as physicians inject the body’s own plasma, enriched with a dense number of blood cells that cause clotting and other needed growth and healing functions. Dosing the injuries with mass platelets provides a callout for internal attention and action.

A regenerative approach: The future of medicine

For the past five years, Dr. Hedin has offered the procedure, where he draws a patient’s blood, mixes it in a high-quality centrifuge machine that concentrates the platelets, then injects the enriched liquid directly into the wounded tendon or musculoskeletal area.

“Regenerative medicine is very up and coming and likely the future of medicine, and I’ve seen great successes with platelet-rich plasma injections,” Dr. Hedin said.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy works well with chronic tennis elbow, rotator cuff and Achilles’ tendon injuries, as well as mild to moderate arthritis in the knees, hips and shoulders.

For example, one of Dr. Hedin’s patients suffered from a work-related shoulder injury. With two rotator cuff tears and a tear along the ring of cartilage in the shoulder joint (also known as a shoulder labral tear), the patient figured surgery was imminent – until he heard about platelet-rich plasma therapy.

“That patient had a lot going on, but we avoided surgery by injecting platelet-rich plasma in all three sites at the same time. I saw the patient a month later, and the pain had decreased significantly; by 6 weeks, he had full range of shoulder motion and no pain at all,” Dr. Hedin said.

Another patient dealt with a chronic hamstring injury that refused to respond to physical therapy or any other treatment plans. Sitting caused the patient great pain and driving more than 30 minutes became excruciating. One month after an injection of platelet-rich plasma to the hamstring tendon, the patient could be in the car for longer durations; by two months, the pain had completely dissipated.

Choosing quality care for quality results

Although Dr. Hedin regularly witnesses the positive results of platelet-rich plasma therapy, research often reports varied reviews. Dr. Hedin believes that’s because not all medical physicians and equipment are created equal.

“Anyone can buy a centrifuge machine online and say they offer platelet-rich plasma therapy – but it needs to be done the right way to get the best results. I advise patients to research not only the amount of experience a physician has, but the quality of equipment used,” Dr. Hedin said. “I also encourage my patients to pair platelet-rich plasma therapy with physical therapy in order to get the best results, as the stretching and strategic exercises can also increase blood flow.”

Once a patient feels comfortable with their physician, facility and treatment plan, Dr. Hedin says patients can expect an initial increase in swelling and soreness directly after an injection of platelet-rich plasma, and then the injury gradually improves.

“Usually within 3 to 4 weeks patients notice a decrease in pain; by 6 to 8 weeks the results really shine. Though this isn’t an instant fix, it offers long-term healing without surgery. I like offering patients a way they can save costs and avoid trauma and potential complications from a surgical procedure,” Dr. Hedin said. “I think prompting the body to fix injuries on its own is incredibly rewarding – especially as patients get back to living life and the things they love to do. That’s the whole nature of my specialty.”

Patients do not need a referral to see Dr. Hedin or his colleagues at East Falls Clinic. To schedule a consultation call (208) 535-4400.