I’ve struggled with the same injury since I was 25. My left hip area would simply “go dead” on me after squats, lunges, running uphill, or wearing shoes with any sort of heel. The injury came and went every nine to twelve months. Sometimes I could run through it, which I’m sure wasn’t bright on my part. Other times it would hit, I’d have to stop running for weeks. It was really, really frustrating.
It took three doctors, half a dozen wrong diagnosis, and five years before someone finally figured out what wrong. Last fall I was diagnosed with tendinopathy of the left gluteus medius, which is basically chronic tendonitis...
My doctor gave me three choices: either return to physical therapy, have cortisone injections, or undergo a treatment called platelet rich plasma therapy – or PRP. Physical therapy wasn’t my first choice because I’d been through a couple rounds of PT for the same injury, so obviously it wasn’t helping me avoid it. There was no way I was doing cortisone shots. It’s purely a personal preference, but I’m dead set against them. I have this lovey-dovey hippy hope that my body has the power to heal itself , and cortisone shots go against that. That left me with one option: PRP.
How does PRP work?
I’d never heard of PRP before my doctor told me about it. Here’s how it works.
Injecting the platelet rich blood right into a chronically injured tendon will jump start the healing process.
A doctor draws your blood then spins it through a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets. That process only takes about twenty minutes, so you’ll just sit in the room and read or play on your smart phone while the blood spins. Once the platelet-packed blood is ready, the doctor will inject it into your injured tendon, using an ultrasound machine to guide the needle. Don’t worry – you won’t feel it. Your doc will numb the area before the injection.
The needle won’t hurt, but if you love to run like I do, the weeks after the PRP will be the painful ones, and not because of the injection. My doctor told me not to do anything for at least two weeks. This means no biking, no swimming, no yoga, and absolutely positively no running.
You also aren’t allowed to ice the area or use any NSAIDs (i.e. Aleve) or Ibuprofen (i.e. Advil, Motrin) for as long as eight weeks after the injection. The doctor explained that he wanted the area to heal and that anti-inflammatories and ice wouldn’t allow the healing process to happen.
If you need something to manage the pain, your doctor will likely throw you a little life raft and let you take Tylenol. I bought a big bottle thinking I’d need it, but I think I took about four. I’d been walking around with a pain in that left hip for five years, and after the injection, it was a different type of soreness, and I felt I would just deal with it.
PRP vs. Cortisone Injections
True, they both involve needles. But cortisone shots help you manage pain by reducing inflammation, but cortisone doesn’t really help with the injury. I liked the idea that with PRP, I had a shot at actually beating this injury that has sidelined me time and time again for the last five years. I also liked the idea that PRP used my own blood to help me heal, instead of a steroid.
It’s been five months since I had PRP and I’m glad I did it. I’m not 100% yet, but I’m definitely hopeful that I’ll get there. In the coming days I’ll write about my own long-term recovery.
See a video of PRP here. (Note: Forgive the soundtrack. It’s a little cheesy).