Over recent years, I have seen a growing interest in stem cells and a particular preparation called Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). Many famous athletes including Tiger Woods have received PRP for various musculoskeletal problems and some have credited it with their accelerated healing and more rapid return to play.

PRP is plasma, the liquid part of blood, concentrated with many more platelets than typically found there. Platelets are known for their importance in clotting blood, but they also contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors. These are responsible for the cascade of events naturally involved in tissue repair. Your own innate stem cells are attracted to the site of injury and play a critical role in the healing process.

Typically, PRP is isolated from your own blood, drawn in the office while you wait. The highly concentrated growth factors are then delivered back into the body at the site of interest. PRP injections have been used for musculoskeletal problems such as sprained knees, osteoarthritis, and chronic tendon injuries. Previously, these types of conditions were treated with medications, physical therapy, and surgery, but PRP recipients commonly report less pain and stronger, more stable joints. It may even promote new cartilage formation in aging joints enabling you to put off joint replacement surgery.

PRP can also be very effective in treating chronic tendon injuries, especially tennis elbow, a common injury of the tendons on the outside of the elbow. Previously, cortisone injections were commonly used, but we know steroids will ultimately weaken tendons and promote rupture. In contrast, now PRP treatments lead to stronger tendons.

Promoting healing after tendon surgery is another use for PRP. For example, an athlete with a completely torn heel cord may require surgery to repair the tendon. Healing of the torn tendon can potentially be improved by treating the injured area with PRP during surgery. With a shorter recovery time, less chronic pain and stronger tissue, you can see why athletes love PRP!

More recently, PRP is being used extensively in aesthetic medicine to keep us looking younger and to promote hair growth. In the same ways the growth factors in PRP facilitate tissue repair from injury or surgery, they also regenerate aging skin. PRP injected into the facial skin has been called the “vampire facial” made famous by some Hollywood stars.

Today we use a more advanced technique called micro-needling. The PRP is layered across your face and delivered to the skin using a handheld device called a Micropen. This device has 12 tiny micro-needles that drive the PRP in, calling in the tissue repair team to get to work! The result is accelerated collagen production with new, thicker, stronger collagen. The procedure is well tolerated and done in the office while you are awake. It takes less than a couple of hours to complete and usually two to three treatments are recommended spaced four to six weeks apart. The collagen repair process can take four to six weeks, we expect to see the full results blossom over the course of months and continue to improve over a year.

The best thing about PRP Micropen Facelift is that there’s not serious downtime like you get with laser resurfacing or surgery. Plus, unlike dermal fillers, which will fade in months, these results will continue to improve over the year. Most commonly we treat faces, but the procedure is safe to use all over the body including necks, chests, hands, and even eye lids. It is also quite helpful for minimizing and fading stretch marks.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about PRP for musculoskeletal or skin rejuvenation, please plan to attend our free interactive community lecture on this topic at the Coronado Library Winn Room from 6-7PM on Thursday 04/06/2017!

Lauren Mathewson, ND is Board certified in naturopathic medicine and Patrick Yassini, MD is board certified in family medicine, integrative and holistic medicine. They practice at Peak Health Group, 131 Orange Avenue, #100, Coronado, Calif.; the office number is (619) 522-4005.