Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injection

Natural Injections to Heal Damage and Reduce Inflammation

Platelet-rich plasma (abbreviated PRP) is a treatment used for a variety of common orthopedic conditions. PRP is a concentration of platelet cells taken from your blood, and these platelets have growth factors that may help in the healing process of chronic injuries. Growth factors are chemicals that signal the body to initiate a healing response. By injecting PRP into areas of an injury, the hope is to stimulate and optimize your body's ability to heal the chronic conditions. PRP contains a high concentration of platelets, other blood cells important in healing, and growth factors.

Insulin separated from blood in container


PRP has been used in operating rooms for several decades to help with wound healing, and to stimulate bone formation in spinal fusion surgery. Recently, PRP has been used in outpatient settings for the treatment of common overuse conditions including:

  • Achilles Tendonitis
  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Patellar Tendonitis

Some doctors seem to use PRP for just about any condition, while others are more selective.

There is limited data about many conditions for which PRP may be helpful, and only a few conditions for which it has been shown to provide some benefit.


PRP injections can be done in a physician's office. The procedure takes about 30 minutes in order to withdraw the blood, spin the blood in the centrifuge, and inject the PRP into the injured area.

Finding a physician who provides PRP injections can be a challenge, but most commonly these are offered by orthopedic physicians who specialize in the care of chronic sports injuries. 

How PRP Is Obtained

PRP is obtained from the patient who is being treated. Blood is withdrawn from a vein in the patient's arm and the blood is placed in a centrifuge, a machine that spins at a high speed to separate the different types of blood cells. The physician extracts the platelet-rich portion of the blood and injects this into the area of injury. There is not just platelets in the concentrated layer of the "spun" blood, but also other important growth factors, plasma, and some red blood cells.

How PRP Is Injected

PRP injections are given as soon as the blood has been spun and the platelets separated. Some physicians may choose to add an "activating agent," usually either thrombin or calcium chloride, while some inject just the platelets. Studies have shown that the tendons being injected can also activate the PRP, so the activating agent may not be necessary.

There is no clear science to justify a particular quantity of PRP and the number of injections needed. Most physicians perform one injection, although sometimes PRP injections are given as a series of injections over a span of several weeks.

Are The Injections Painful?

There is some discomfort associated with both requiring the blood to inject, and for the actual injection itself. Both parts of the procedure involve placing a needle through the skin. There are anesthetics that can be given to help alleviate some of the discomfort associated with placing a needle into the skin. The relief found from a PRP injection is not immediate, often like people experience with a cortisone injection.


We know from laboratory studies that PRP can help increase certain growth factors that are important in the healing process. What we do not know is if this makes any difference in healing when PRP is injected into an injured part of the body.

Clinical studies that have been done so far do not clearly demonstrate if PRP is more effective than other treatments.

While there are reports of cases of success, it is not known if these successes are better, or worse than other standard treatments. Currently, investigations are underway to determine if PRP is more helpful than other treatments for chronic tendonitis.

PRP has been shown to have some beneficial effects for tennis elbow, Achilles injuries, and even knee arthritis. Unfortunately, these are relatively small studies that follow the patients for a relatively short duration. Because of this, most doctors, and definitely most insurance companies, consider PRP to be experimental. However, talk to any patient who has found success with PRP, and they will tell you about how successful this treatment can be! It is important to remember, even though there are some success stories and small studies that show benefit, we really don't know if PRP is worth the expense of this treatment.

Side Effects

Side effects are uncommon, but they are possible. Whenever a needle is inserted through the skin, an infection can occur. The other more common side effect of PRP injections is an increase in inflammation and pain after the injection.

PRP injections are not recommended in individuals with bleeding disorders, those taking anti-coagulation medications (e.g. Coumadin), or those who have cancer, active infections, or are pregnant.


PRP injections are not covered by most insurance plans, so there is usually a fee for providing this service. If your insurance does not cover these injections, you can try to appeal to the insurance provider, but because there is little scientific evidence to support PRP use, the likelihood of coverage may be low.

Fees for PRP injections vary widely, and you may be able to work out a payment with your physician. While there are many different costs to obtain PRP, most physician offices use disposable kits offered by some of the major orthopedic supply companies. These kits cost a few hundred dollars, so there is certainly flexibility in payment.

You should negotiate the best possible rate if you are paying out of pocket.

A Word From Verywell

PRP injections have been a subject of significant interest for orthopedic surgeons and for their patients. Trying to stimulate a healing response within the body can be a challenge, and PRP injections may be an effective way to achieve that goal. While there is some data to support the use of PRP injections in certain clinical situations, there is other data that questions whether this is more beneficial than traditional treatment. There is little harm in PRP injections, and they are certainly a reasonable option, but the cost of these injections is often not covered by insurance plans. I think it is reasonable to consider a PRP injection, however, it certainly should not be viewed as a mandatory treatment, and this should only be considered when other simpler, and more proven treatments are attempted first.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hall, Michael P. MD et. al. Platelet-rich Plasma: Current Concepts and Application in Sports Medicine. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Volume 17, Issue 10. p 602–608. October 2009.

  2. Padilla S, Orive G, Sanchez M, Anitua E, Hsu WK. Platelet-rich plasma in orthopedic applications: evidence-based recommendations for treatment. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2014;22(8):469-70. doi:10.5435/JAAOS-22-08-469

  3. Ficek K, Kamiński T, Wach E, Cholewiński J, Cięszczyk P. Application of platelet-rich plasma in sports medicine. J Hum Kinet. 2011;30:85-97. doi:10.2478/v10078-011-0076-z

  4. Dhurat R, Sukesh M. Principles and Methods of Preparation of Platelet-Rich Plasma: A Review and Author's Perspective. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2014;7(4):189-97. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.150734

  5. Raeissadat SA, Rayegani SM, Hassanabadi H, et al. Knee Osteoarthritis Injection Choices: Platelet- Rich Plasma (PRP) Versus Hyaluronic Acid (A one-year randomized clinical trial). Clin Med Insights Arthritis Musculoskelet Disord. 2015;8:1-8. doi:10.4137/CMAMD.S17894

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.