If you experience neck pain that doesn’t go away, you are not alone. Up to 71% of adults report bothersome pain in the neck at some point in their life. While many recover spontaneously, some people experience ongoing pain that seriously limits their daily activities and quality of life.
It’s very important that you don’t accept chronic neck pain as your “new normal”. We now have real help available in the form of regenerative medicine. If you’ve been seeking relief for painful conditions of the neck that haven’t responded to traditional medical methods, it’s time to explore what platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy could do for you.
Whiplash Neck Injury
Chronic neck pain is often associated with a whiplash-type injury that commonly occurs during a motor vehicle accident. What typically happens when you get hit in a road traffic accident is that your neck first forcefully bends back and then forcefully bends forward, faster than your muscles can react. This not only strains the muscles, but it can also stretch the ligaments in your spine and, in some cases, causes them to shred. As a result, your spine—which normally looks like a beautiful and strong tree—starts resembling a bunch of bricks loosely held together. In other words, your cervical spine (the neck area) becomes very unstable. Doesn’t sound like a structure compatible with smooth, effortless movement, does it? As you might know for yourself, this type of an injury often limits movement and causes severe pain in your neck and shoulders that can persist for months, sometimes years. You might also experience other symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, dizziness, problems with eyesight and nausea.
Unfortunately, the condition can sometimes be unresponsive to conservative treatment, as well as costly. Fifty percent of people with whiplash experience continuous symptoms that interfere with their daily life. It’s not unusual, therefore, that many patients start relying on narcotics (or other drugs that offer temporary relief) just to get through the day. This is a scenario nobody would willingly choose unless pushed by unbearable pain.
Treating Whiplash Neck Injuries with Platelet Rich Plasma
Platelet rich plasma therapy or PRP was originally used in open-heart surgery and oral surgery to accelerate wound healing. It soon became very popular in sports medicine where it could often save an athlete’s career. As a matter of fact, PRP treatment caught many people’s attention in 2009, when Hines Ward of Pittsburgh Steelers benefited from the procedure. Mr. Ward injured the medial collateral ligament in his knee; an injury that would usually require 4 to 6 weeks to heal. However, after opting to have PRP, the NFL wide receiver was cleared for full contact in 2 weeks, just in time for the Super Bowl XL match of his life. PRP therapy is now fully adopted in the field of musculoskeletal medicine, with thousands of people around the world benefiting from it.
The PRP procedure is a straightforward process that only takes a few steps, achievable during a single visit to our clinic (following an initial assessment). It involves taking a tiny sample of your blood, putting it through a centrifuge and spinning it down. This separates the blood plasma from other blood components. During the process, platelets in the plasma get concentrated to several times the normal amount. Platelets contain numerous growth factor and bioactive proteins—this characteristic gives them their fantastic ability to heal tissue.
What the surgeon needs to do is find the damaged area—either by feel or under ultrasound or fluoroscopic guidance—and inject the PRP there. Since only your own blood is used, there is no danger of rejection or disease transmission. The process is relatively safe and allows you to get back to your routine as soon as possible. To heal a whiplash injury, you should expect to require about 3 to 4 treatments on average.
Other Conditions of the Neck that Could Benefit from PRP
There are other painful conditions that can develop in the neck region of the spine and are suitable for regenerative medicine treatment. One of them is cervical radiculopathy, which can be caused by spinal disc herniation. Often a result of general wear and tear (degeneration), this condition develops when a nerve gets compressed near the cervical vertebrae of the neck. This causes damage to or disturbance of the nerve function, resulting in pain, loss of sensation, tingling in fingers or hands.
One study that evaluated the safety and effectiveness of PRP injections to treat neck and low back pain in patients with spinal disc herniation showed that 81% of those with neck pain showed improvement. The positive outcomes could still be observed 8 years after the procedure was performed, attesting its long-term success. In addition, no complications were detected in patients receiving PRP . Another study also found that PRP treatment can be a good alternative to steroids and radiotherapy ablation (a procedure used for reducing pain) for those who have pain originating in the cervical facet joint.
If you have a medical diagnosis related to your neck area that is causing you a lot of pain, make sure you consider PRP as one of the possible treatment options.
Is Regenerative Medicine of the Neck for Me?
Many people choose PRP treatment to avoid surgery or dependence on medication such as opioids. However, PRP is not a panacea. You need to consider if it’s right for you and your type of injury. It’s essential to know as much as possible about your condition and the cause of your neck pain. Before you make any decision, discuss your case with a competent health professional and, ideally, involve your whole medical team.
You also need to consider that the cervical spine is a very complex structure. It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the cause and origin of your pain. Therefore, it might take a few sessions to inject the right area of the neck and stimulate the healing process properly. However, if the procedure is performed by an experienced surgeon and you allow it some time to work, you’re likely to observe an amazing healing response with durable results.
 Fejer, R., Kyvik, K. O., & Hartvigsen, J. (2006). The prevalence of neck pain in the world population: a systematic critical review of the literature. European Spine Journal, 15(6), 834–848. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-004-0864-4
 Peolsson, A., Landén Ludvigsson, M., Tigerfors, A., & Peterson, G. (2016). Effects of neck-specific exercises compared to waiting list for individuals with chronic whiplash-associated disorders: a prospective, randomized controlled study. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 97(2), 189-195. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2015.10.087
 DeChellis, D. M., & Cortazzo, M. H. (2011). Regenerative medicine in the field of pain medicine: prolotherapy, platelet-rich plasma therapy, and stem cell therapy—theory and evidence. Techniques in Regional Anesthesia and Pain Management, 15, 74-80. doi:10.1053/j.trap.2011.05.002
 Cameron J.A, Thielen K.M. (2017) Autologous platelet rich plasma for neck and lower back pain secondary to spinal disc herniation: midterm results. Spine Research, 3(2),10.
 Sully, K. A., Sayeed, Y. A., & Patel, B. C. (2017). Poster 422: Successful treatment of cervical facet joint pain using platelet rich plasma—a novel case report. Pm&R, (9), doi:10.1016/j.pmrj.2017.08.362