I get angry when I see people falling for flashy procedures that fool them into thinking they’re fixing their problems. One of the most searched for heel pain treatments online over the last two years is one often featured in the sports section. Recent stories on Bartolo Colon, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tiger Woods are helping to popularize the concept of PRP, or Platelet-Rich Plasma, as the orthopaedic treatment of the moment for sprain and ligament issues.
There’s one minor problem with PRP: there’s no evidence it actually works.
PRP involves drawing blood from the patient and using a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells from the platelet-rich plasma. For plantar fasciitis, this plasma is then injected into the heel under the premise that platelets reduce inflammation and stimulate healing. Once patients have received the injection, they’re put on crutches for at least a week. Some patients report rapid pain relief, but that’s from spending time off of the sore heel, and not as a result of the injection they credit!
Athletes are receiving it for various sprains and injuries, but you never can seem to find any article on how the treatment actually works – because it doesn’t! PRP is being studied in clinical trials and has yet to show it promotes healing from injuries. Even the editor of The American Journal of Sports Medicine calls this nothing more than a “platelet-rich panacea.”
Doctors who offer PRP treatments perceive it as a relatively easy and harmless in-office procedure they can charge a lot of money for – in fact, on average, patients are charged upwards of $2,000 per treatment. Sadly, these doctors are jumping into PRP treatment headfirst.
The docs I personally know who are using PRP regularly aren’t very good at what they do, so this provides them the extra DB (doctor bling). Making matters worse is that large othoapaedic companies are pushing PRP more and more. It’s a real shame that the popularity of this treatment is seemingly driven more by office reps than evidence based medicine, which really pisses me off. More on evidence based medicine coming up soon.
Do not participate in this farce! When it comes to PRP, orthotics, injections, or soundwave “therapy,” they might appear safe and they usually are, but they don’t fix anything.
At least when it comes to the foot and ankle this is the plain fact: plantar fasciitis and many other foot problems are mechanical imbalances that lead to inflammation. Treat the mechanical problem and the inflammation will solve itself… which means the best thing you can do to prevent and relieve plantar fasciitis is also the simplest and most affordable. A proper regimen of stretching to maintain your flexibility is the only way to relieve your pain the right way and prevent heel pain.