Bizarre New Treatment for Sprains and Strains (Sign Me Up!)

Cynthia Dermody

hands on keyboard
Flickr photo by foxtongue
I am in pain.

As I type the sentence you are reading, a burning, achy sensation is pooling in my wrists and slowly trickling up my forearms all the way to my elbows.

Now I'm balancing an ice pack on my left arm as I type. It numbs the pain of my tendonitis a little, temporarily. Tonight I'll go home and hop myself up on Celebrex, that powerful NSAID that everyone's afraid of, and continue for the next 10 days or so, because it's the ONLY thing that works.

I've tried it all. Physical therapy, stretching, chiropractic adjustments, massage. I've begged for surgery. If it will fix it, cut me. Now.

But there is no surgery for weak, strained tendons.

You can inject them with cortisone, but the painful steroid shots with lots of side effects are a temporary fix, not a permanent one. I've considered it, but I would only be able to get one or two shots and no more. I'm going to avoid that and instead hang my hopes on a new treatment I just read about in the Wall Street Journal.

It's called platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, or "blood spinning." It sounds medieval, but it's quite modern and innovative. Tiger Woods and lots of other athletes have used it to treat a myriad of injuries to tissues that are very slow healing, such as cartilage, ligaments and tendons. I swear I'd rather break a bone than damage a tissue, trust me.

In PRP, doctors take about two ounces of the patient's own blood and spin it in a centrifuge to separate out the plasma, the part of the blood that secretes growth factors to promote clotting and healing. Then they inject it into the site of the injury or strain.

Pain from tendonitis and other injuries like plantar fasciitis, knee strain, tennis elbow and osteoarthritis is due largely to inflammation, the body's natural response to injury. PRP actually encourages inflammation -- it does not reduce it like my Celebrex -- so the body goes through it's own natural cycle of healing, just a little more quickly.

Unfortunately, the treatment has gotten ahead of research so there's mostly only anecdotal evidence that it works, but I'm willing to be a guinea pig. Getting injections of my own body's blood seems a lot more natural and safer than constantly pumping myself with drugs.

Are you suffering from a chronic sports or overuse injury that won't respond to traditional therapies? Would you try blood spinning?

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