Rotator cuff tears are extremely common and can cause pain and difficulty in performing jobs that involve manual labor, activities of daily living, and sports. In the past, most doctors recommended a course of physical therapy, but this approach rarely restores full use of the arm and most individuals eventually opt for surgical repair. Today, however, PRP therapy can help heal rotator cuffs without surgery.

What is PRP?

PRP is prepared from the patient’s own blood. A blood sample is taken and the platelets are separated from the red and white blood cells and concentrated in the liquid part of the blood, the plasma. Platelets carry clotting factors, cytokines, and growth factors around in the blood. When they are activated they release their contents. The clotting factors stop any bleeding, and cytokines and growth factors stimulate healing and rejuvenation of the tissues. PRP is widely used to treat both acute tendon and ligament injuries and to treat wear-and-tear repetitive use damage to the tendons.

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?

The rotator cuff holds your upper arm bone in the shoulder socket. It is comprised of four tendons that attach the upper arm bone (the humerus) to the shoulder blade. The rotator cuff is essential for lifting and rotating the arm. Tears can be partial or full, and occur slowly over time due to repetitive motions, particularly involving lifting the arms above the head, or as an acute injury while lifting a heavy object or falling. Most tears affect the tendon on the top of the shoulder joint, the supraspinatus tendon.

Symptoms of a tear include pain and weakness when trying to lift or rotate the arm. Some individuals with complete tears cannot lift their arm over their head at all. Diagnosis involves determining the cause of the problem is the rotator cuff and not a pinched nerve in the neck or arthritis of the shoulder joint. A physical examination combined with ultrasound and/or MRI is able to definitely diagnose a rotator cuff tear.

What is the Treatment Like?

The actual PRP therapy procedure is very straightforward. A blood sample is taken and the PRP is prepared in the office while the patient waits, a procedure that only takes about 15 minutes. Then, under ultrasound guidance, the activated PRP is injected into the area(s) that need to heal. No recovery or downtime is necessary after the injection. Usually, a course of physical therapy is recommended in conjunction with the PRP injection. Because PRP acts by stimulating natural healing, results are not immediately apparent, but by eight weeks after treatment patients begin to feel some relief and by three months, around seventy-eight percent are significantly improved. In some cases, repeated treatments with PRP injections may be necessary to achieve a full recovery.

Get In Touch with Us for More Information

If your shoulder joint is not working properly and it is impeding your ability to perform your usual activities, feel free to reach out and make an appointment with Anazao MD. At our convenient location in Steamboat Springs, our caring and dedicated staff will be pleased to explain PRP therapy in full and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today for more information!

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