Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
This is one straight from the science fiction books. Administered by a physician, this procedure takes your blood from your arm and puts it through a centrifuge to separate the plasmafrom the red blood cells. The process also concentrates the platelets contained within the plasma. Plasma cells are chock full of something called growth factors, the protein that stimulates cell growth and healing.
“What we do is we concentrate the platelets, thereby concentrating growth factors, and inject them into the source [of pain]—tears in the muscle, tendonitis and boney problems. It works well with arthritis wear and tear” like the knee problems runners often have, Dr. Spain says.
The whole process takes five minutes. “It’s almost the same process as a cortisone shot—but cortisone can break down tendon, muscles and bones—it’s not a safe thing to do repeatedly. [This is] extremely safe because it’s your own blood product. The risk of infection is next to nothing. It’s an uncomfortable shot and then there’s a little flare-up. There’s really no downside,” he says.
Though not covered by insurance yet (it’s still considered experimental, despite being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration), treatment takes anywhere from one to three shots over the course of about a week and at Dr. Spain’s office costs about $500 per treatment.
I know what you’re thinking: This sounds kind of like blood doping. Rest assured that in 2011, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed PRP from its list of prohibitions, saying: “Despite the presence of some growth factors … current studies on PRP do not demonstrate any potential for performance enhancement beyond a potential therapeutic effect.”