That's exactly what happened to Dr. Yibing Li two years ago. "I injured my feet by excessive walking and Zumba exercises," she recalls. Thanks to her overzealous attempts to keep in shape, she developed plantar fasciitis in both feet.
"I tried numerous traditional therapies including, but not limited to, physical therapy, customized shoe inserts, steroid injections and expensive shoes," she recounts. Nothing provided relief.
An orthopedist suggested surgery, but Dr. Li, a medical doctor board-certified in Pain Medicine & Physical Medicine Rehab, says surgery was not an option due to her busy work schedule.
Instead, she tried PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections in both feet. "After a month or two, I noticed my foot pain was getting better and better," she observed. Today, her foot pain is totally eliminated. "I have resumed all my activities without any restrictions."
Because her results were so dramatic, Dr. Li started treating her patients with the same condition with PRP. For the past 15 years she has treated numerous patients with acute and chronic pain, but she says this treatment has offered the best chance of permanent healing. "In my experience, PRP is the best treatment for plantar fasciitis."
The plantar fascia is a thin, web-like ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. It supports the arch of your foot and helps you walk. These ligaments act as shock absorbers, supporting the arch of the foot. They experience a lot of wear and tear from daily activities. Too much pressure on your feet can damage or tear the ligaments. The plantar fascia then becomes inflamed; the inflammation causes heel pain and stiffness.
Left untreated, plantar fasciitis can become a chronic condition. It can contribute to the development of foot, knee, hip and back problems because plantar fasciitis can change the way you walk, limiting your level of activity.
The use of platelet-rich plasma has gained significant popularity in the field of sports medicine and orthopedics due to its power to enhance permanent healing of both acute and chronic ailments.
The body has a limited time period that it can dedicate to heal an injured and is often called the "inflammation stage" of injury. After 3-6 months, the body "gives up" on the injured tissue and moves on to other areas that need help. This is called the "chronic injury stage," when there are few if any cells in the injured tissue site to help with healing.
The healing process of chronic plantar fasciitis, ligament, tendon, bone and cartilage injuries can be expedited by injecting cells that promote inflammation, raising a red flag to alert the body to take notice of the injured tissue again so it can continue to assist healing the damaged tissue.
These essential healing cells are already present in your blood. Though best known for their role in clotting blood, platelets also contain proteins called growth factors, which are important in the healing of injuries.
With PRP, blood is withdrawn, placed in a centrifuge to separate the different types of blood cells (red cells, white cells and platelets). The concentration of growth factors can be 10 times after the platelet-rich blood is separated.
Your doctor then injects this platelet-rich portion of blood directly into the area of your injury. Usually a single injection is sufficient, although sometimes a series is appropriate. Because your own blood is used, there is no risk of a transmissible infection and a very low risk of allergic reaction.
After the injection, your injured region may actually ache more for a week or two while the injected cells are given time to work. Several weeks later, however, the healing benefits begin to reduce inflammation and pain by a noticeable degree.
PRP has a healing effect, an anti-inflammatory effect and a pain-relieving effect that can be used to treat a variety of problems from tendons to joint issues.
Research studies and clinical practice have shown PRP therapy to be very effective at relieving pain and returning patients to their normal lives more quickly than other treatments. Both Ultrasound and MRI images have shown definitive tissue repair after PRP therapy, confirming the healing process. The need for surgery can also be reduced by treating injured tissues before the damage progresses and the condition becomes irreversible.