PRP Therapy for Chronic Back Pain

Nothing compares to the feeling of playing the sport you love. Unfortunately, participating in athletics at an advanced level — or just trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise — can lead to injuries or chronic pain.

Most adults experience back pain at some point in their lifetimes. It is a leading contributor to missed workdays, one of the most common causes of job-related disability and one of the most routine reasons people seek care from a medical professional. Anyone is susceptible to back pain regardless of their level of physical activity, including those who lead sedentary lifestyles. People with chronic back pain report difficulty performing daily tasks, difficulty sleeping, difficulty engaging in social activities and significant levels of psychological distress, including feelings of depression and anger.

For athletes, who are constantly pushing the physical limits of their bodies, the risk of injury and chronic pain is particularly relevant. Athletes are understandably concerned about how long an injury will keep them away from their sport, whether a serious injury could end their career and the possibility of enduring residual pain for the rest of their life. The good news is that, with preventative measures and advanced treatment options like PRP therapy, many cases of back pain in athletes can be avoided or managed.

Acute Back Pain vs. Chronic Back Pain

Most back pain is acute, meaning it is temporary. It is often directly related to an injury and may last a few days, a few weeks or a few months. Acute pain usually resolves with proper care and there is no residual loss of function.

When back pain persists, it may become chronic. The term “chronic pain” is used to describe pain that lasts more than three to six months. Chronic pain can be due to an identifiable cause, but it is often more difficult to pinpoint an underlying reason for the pain. In general, chronic pain is less well understood and less easily treated than acute pain.

Common Causes of Back Pain for Athletes

Back pain is a symptom with many possible causes. Some of the most common causes of back pain in athletes are:

  • Muscle strains
  • Ligament sprains
  • Spondylolysis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Fracture of vertebrae
  • Disc herniation
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Mechanical back pain
  • Cervical (neck) injuries
  • Burners and stingers (nerve injuries)

Other causes of back pain include sciatica, radiculopathy, spinal stenosis and skeletal irregularities like scoliosis or lordosis. Underlying conditions such as osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and inflammatory diseases of the joints can also predispose individuals to back pain.

Risk Factors for Developing Chronic Back Pain

Any athlete can develop back pain. However, athletes who play certain sports have an elevated risk of both acute and chronic back pain. Back pain appears to be particularly prevalent in wrestlers, gymnasts, divers, weightlifters, rowers, figure skaters, golfers, downhill skiers, snowboarders, tennis players and American football players. These sports involve a great deal of twisting, turning, jerking motions, bodily impact, repetitive hyperextension of the back and pressure on the spine.

For athletes and non-athletes alike, the following factors can put someone at greater risk of developing back pain:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Improper lifting of heavy objects
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetics
  • Lack of strength in the back and abdomen
  • Poor posture
  • Mental health factors
  • Jobs that require repetitive or heavy lifting
  • Jobs that involve vibration from vehicles or industrial machinery
  • Jobs that require excessive standing or sitting

When You Should See a Doctor

You’ve injured yourself on the Smith machine or playing a friendly weekend game of capture the flag. Now you’re in pain and you don’t know whether you should wait it out, treat it with ice and over-the-counter pain medication, or see a doctor. As a naturally competitive person, you may be tempted to train through the pain, but that is unwise. Ignoring your discomfort and avoiding medical help is unlikely to help your injury heal in the short-term, and it could possibly lead to long-term damage or chronic pain. Early treatment of a back injury typically yields the best results.

See a doctor for further evaluation if:

  • Your back pain doesn’t improve with rest
  • Your back pain is getting progressively worse
  • The pain is causing weakness, numbness or tingling
  • The pain radiates down one or both of your legs
  • The pain is affecting your walking or balance
  • The pain persists for more than two months
  • You experience bladder or bowel changes

Treating Back Pain With Regenerative Medicine

Treatments for chronic back pain aim to reduce the severity of your pain and minimize its effect on your life, so you can do more of the things that make your life enjoyable and meaningful. Treatment approaches vary greatly depending on the type and source of the pain. Conservative treatment measures include hot or cold packs, physical therapy and medications. Chronic pain is also be managed with epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks and spinal cord stimulator implants. When these therapies are insufficient, surgery may be considered.

In recent years, regenerative medicine procedures have shown great promise in providing relief for all types of back pain. Regenerative medicine is a cutting-edge field that focuses on harnessing a patient’s own healing resources to repair and regenerate damaged tissue. Using biological materials like platelet-rich plasma, regenerative therapies target the source of pain at a cellular level to accelerate healing, restore function and offer long-term pain relief. Professional athletes including Kobe Bryant and Stephen Curry have undergone platelet-rich plasma therapy to speed up their return to the court after injury.

What Is Platelet-Rich Plasma?

Plasma is the primary liquid component of your blood. It is rich in nutrients, proteins and antibodies, and plays an important role in helping other critical components of blood — red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets — travel through your body. The platelets found in plasma help your body form clots to stop bleeding. They also secrete proteins called growth factors that are a vital part of your body’s ability to regenerate tissue, reduce inflammation and remain healthy overall.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is your body’s own plasma that has been processed to produce a higher concentration of platelets. PRP is incorporated in regenerative treatments to expedite healing and reduce pain, as well as in treatments for hair loss and cosmetic skin treatments (the so-called “vampire facial”). PRP therapy is an increasingly popular option for treating sports-related injuries and chronic pain.

What Is PRP Therapy?

PRP therapy is a minimally-invasive injectable treatment that can offer significant relief from chronic back pain. During a PRP procedure, a small sample of your blood is taken and processed in a centrifuge to separate the platelets. The isolated platelets and remaining plasma are combined to create PRP, which is then injected back into your body directly at the source of your pain. PRP contains five to 10 times more platelets than blood, giving it substantially more power to promote healing and alleviate pain.

PRP injections are performed in-office on an outpatient basis and typically take between 45 to 90 minutes to complete. Adverse side effects are rare because PRP is an autologous treatment, meaning it uses your body’s own materials. With no synthetic or animal-derived components, the risk of allergic reaction or rejection is virtually eliminated. PRP is entirely natural and compatible with your unique biology.

What Conditions Can PRP Treat?

At All Star Pain Management, we offer PRP injections to treat chronic back pain as well as the following conditions that commonly affect athletes:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Achilles tendinosis
  • Jumper’s knee (patellar tendinosis)
  • Quadriceps tendonitis
  • Rotator cuff tendinosis
  • Bicep tendonitis
  • Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)
  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Wrist tendinitis
  • De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
  • SI joint arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis

Benefits of PRP Therapy for Athletes

Though anyone with chronic back pain could potentially benefit from PRP injections, athletes face unique challenges that make them especially well-suited to this kind of treatment. Athletes are often reluctant to seek medical care. Many of them attempt to minimize or deny pain and injuries to avoid undesirable consequences, such as having to take time off to recover, missing a competition, losing a position or being removed from a team. Some athletes fear they will be perceived as letting the team down or will lose their worth to the team if they pursue medical treatment.

The temptation to tolerate pain for the sake of the game and the team is strong, but avoiding necessary treatment can ultimately put you at greater risk. PRP therapy is an excellent option for athletes who are concerned about spending too much time away from their sport. Due to PRP’s high concentration of growth and healing factors, PRP injections promote rapid healing of injuries that would otherwise require a much longer recovery period. PRP therapy may also help an athlete avoid the need for invasive surgery and the pain, risks and downtime that come with it. PRP functions as a complementary treatment combined with surgery to accelerate recovery or as a stand-alone injectable treatment

Don’t Let Chronic Back Pain Keep You Stuck on the Sidelines

As a competitive athlete, you are always driven to do one more kick, one more throw, one more stroke or one more sprint – but when you push your body to its limits and beyond, you are at risk. The line between challenging yourself and injuring yourself is fine. PRP therapy can offer long-lasting relief from chronic back pain so you can get back on your feet and return to the sport you love. Call All Star Pain Management and Regenerative Medicine at 443-808-1808 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Zed.