Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Prolotherapy For Thumb Pain (2023)



According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), musculoskeletal injuries are the most common cause of long-term pain and disability which affect millions of people across the globe. Musculoskeletal diseases, ranging from thumb and wrist injuries to osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are the biggest health complaint among US patients. In 2004, the total cost of musculoskeletal disease treatment was estimated to be 849$ billion. In 2005, the majority of work loss and bed rest was attributed to the conditions related to musculoskeletal diseases. The increased popularity of sport-related activities has increased the chances of sport-related injuries. 45% of all musculoskeletal injuries in the US are sport-related injuries and ligament and tendon traumas.


With an increase in the number of musculoskeletal injuries, the cost of the treatment is also going up. Therefore, there is a dire need to find less-expensive and more effective alternative treatment methods. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) Prolotherapy is one of the alternative treatment methods that fulfill these requirements. PRP Prolotherapy is a minimally invasive, cost-effective and efficient method in which the blood of the patient is used to heal the injury. The percentage of blood components is reversed and plasma containing 93% platelets is injected at the site of injury. Platelets have the ability to induce tissue regeneration and repair by activating the body's own repair mechanism.


The healing process takes the following steps to heal the injury.

  1. Inflammation phase that lasts for 2-3 days. In this phase, growth factors are released.
  2. Proliferation phase that lasts for 2-4 weeks. It is vital for musculoskeletal regeneration.
  3. Remodeling which lasts over a year. In this phase, collagen is matured and strengthened


PRP Prolotherapy is a very safe method as it uses the patient's own blood; the chances of disease transfer and allergic reaction are eliminated. Research shows that PRP Prolotherapy is not related to the tumor development. Like other invasive methods, there are risks of scar tissue formation, needle breakage, no relief of pain and infection.


The ability to touch the tip of each finger with the thumb is what makes humans unique among primates. According to the anatomists, the human thumb is the result of an evolutionary process which allowed the humans to develop the control over the small movements of hand and fingers such as picking up objects between finger and thumb and writing carefully.40% of the hand function is provided by the thumb and complete disability of the thumb is devastating and can be equal to the loss of 22% of the body function. Because thumb is so extensively used, it gets injured very easily and can cause acute or chronic pain.

Of all the structure in the hand, thumb joints are the most susceptible to mechanical and work-related injuries. The physiotherapists are very susceptible to thumb pain as a survey done by the members of Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia showed that out of 155 members, 83% had experienced thumb pain in the year 2000. Basal thumb arthritis is another cause of thumb disability. According to the Arthritis Research Institute of America, 21% of people above age 40 have Basal thumb arthritis and it is more prevalent in women than men. Data suggests that by 2020, millions of people will have daily activities limited by thumb arthritis.

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(Video) Comprehensive Prolotherapy Treatment to Thumb and Fingers

Hand thumb also called pollex. The thumb is the first among the five digits of the hand but it is not typically referred to as a finger. The thumb has 3 joints; Metacarpophalangeal, interphalangeal and carpometacarpal joints. The three bones found in the thumb are the following:

Thumb Metacarpal: The thumb metacarpal is the hand bone in line with the thumb which has more mobility as compared to the other metacarpals.

Thumb Proximal Phalanx: It is the thumb's closest bone to the hand. Unlike the fingers, the thumb does not have a middle phalanx.

Thumb Distal Phalanx: It is the thumb's farthest bone from the hand.

Muscles controlling the movements of the thumb are located in the forearm as well as in the palm of the hand.

Blood supply of provided by digital arteries from the Palmer arches and blood drains into corresponding veins.


There are many causes of thumb pain. Some of the most common causes are the following:

Arthritis: Almost 75% people above the age of 75 have thumb arthritis. The patients with arthritis experience pain and weakness while pinching and grasping. The thumb arthritis is diagnosed by physical examination and X-ray. Treatment options include non-surgical methods and surgery. Non-surgical methods include ice/heat, splinting and pain medication. In surgery, the joint is removed by either removing the bone or by joining the two bones.

Class IV Cold Lasers treatments are very effective for decrease hand and thumb arthritic pain.

Thumb sprain: A sprain is an injury to the ligament that connects the bones at the joint. It is caused by a sports injury or fall. The most common thumb sprain is ulnar collateral ligament sprain. Injury to a ulnar collateral ligament is also called skier's thumb because it is the most common injury caused by ski poles. In this sprain, the ligament that connects the thumb to the hand is damaged. The symptoms are swelling, bruises, pain, and trouble in writing and holding things. X-ray is performed to make sure that the pain is a thumb sprain and not a broken bone. Either splints are used or surgery is performed to treat the thumb sprain which involves reconnecting the ligament to the bone.

Trigger Thumb: This condition is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis. In this condition, the thumb is locked in the bent position. It is common in people whom work involves repetitive gripping action. It is caused by inflammation between the sheaths that cover the tendons in the thumb. The symptoms of trigger thumb are stiffness, tenderness, and thumb locked in bend position. Treatment options for trigger thumb involve cortisone injection, anti-inflammatory medicine, heat and in extreme cases, surgery is required.

De Quervain's Disease: it is the inflammation of tendons in the thumb that can extend to the wrist. The causes of De Quervain's disease are overuse, a direct blow to the thumb, repetitive clutching and rheumatoid arthritis. It affects the women 10 times more than the men. The most common symptom of De Quevain's disease is the pain at the back of the thumb. Other symptoms include pain and swelling at the base of the thumb. Finkelstein test is performed by the doctor for the diagnosis of disease. Treatment options are splints, ice, anti-inflammatory medicine, steroids, physical therapy and surgery.

(Video) Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections Recovery Time

Thumb Fracture: Thumb fracture can occur to any of the three bones in the thumb but almost 80% of the thumb fractures occur at the base of the thumb near the joint. The joint fracture is difficult to heal properly. Thumb fracture is caused by direct injury to the thumb such as fall or sports injuries or indirect injuries such as twist or muscle contraction. Bone disease or calcium deficiency increases the risk of fracture. Symptoms include pain, swelling, limited mobility, tenderness, and thumb deformation. Thumb fracture is diagnosed by physical examination and X-ray. Treatment options are cast, surgery, and physical therapy.

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Thumb pain is mostly caused by tendon and ligament damage/breakage, inflammation and fractures. It leads to pain, swelling, and loss of motion, deformity and economic burden due to higher treatment cost. Treatment options such as surgery can sometimes cause more complications that can lead to the use of antibiotics and reopen the injury site.

Research shows that platelet rich plasma Prolotherapy is a safe option to treat the causes of thumb pain such as osteoarthritis. In a clinical research, the patients felt continuous relief after two PRP injections at 3 and 6 months follow-up. Platelet rich plasma Prolotherapy is also successful in decreasing the degree of deformity in the thumb caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

PRP Prolotherapy is effective in reducing thumb pain caused by tendon and ligament injury. A double-blind animal research performed by Dr. Liu showed that RPR Prolotherapy increased ligament mass by 44%, thickness by 27% and ligament-bone juncture strength by 28%. Increased ligament thickness and strength lead to the ligament healing and reduction in pain. Prolotherapy is more effective than the surgery in the treatment of biomechanical injuries that damage the ligaments.

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Prolotherapy repairs and regenerate tissues and restore the normal motion without the risk of surgical trauma, scarring, and infection. Steroid injections are used to reduce thumb pain. These injections reduce the pain by inhibiting the inflammation process but do not treat the underlying cause of the pain as compared to PRP Prolotherapy which accelerates the inflammation process and heals the underlying cause of pain which leads to long-term pain relief.

For PRP Prolotherapy, the cause of thumb pain is diagnosed, the pain site is marked and the RPR injection is applied under sterile conditions. It takes from 3 to 6 months to completely eliminate the thumb pain after 2-3 PRP injections and it offers a long-term pain relief.


Combing prolotherapy and stem cell treatments with physical therapy, sports therapy, massage therapy, and exercises enhances recovery and pain free function. People have often tried many of these treatments prior to injection therapy. Combining these treatments with PRP and stem cells maximizes recovery and tissue repair.


(Video) PRP to Treat Hand Arthritis and Trigger Finger

  2. Photons of light from lasers penetrate into tissue and accelerate cellular growth and reproduction. Laser therapy increases the energy available to the cell so it can work faster, better, and quickly get rid of waste products. When cells of tendons, ligaments, and muscles are exposed to laser light they repair and heal faster.

  4. Laser light increases collagen production by stimulating fibroblasts. Collagen is the building block of tissue repair and healing. Laser therapy increases fibroblast activity and therefore collagen production to speed healing.

  6. Low level laser therapy decreases scar tissue formation. Scar tissue can be a source of chronic pain and poor healing. By eliminating excessive scar tissue and encouraging proper collagen production, painful scars and chronic pain is reduced.

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  8. Laser therapy causes vasodilatation (increases size of capillaries) which increases blood flow. The treatments also increases lymphatic drainage to decrease swelling or edema. Therefore, laser therapy reduces swelling caused by bruising or inflammation while speeding the recovery process

  10. Cold laser therapy decreases pain by blocking pain signals to the brain. Some nerve cells sense pain and send signals to the brain. Chronic pain can be caused by overly active pain nerves. Specific wavelengths help "shut off" the pain signals, thereby; eliminating your pain.

    Low level lasers are excellent at decreasing inflammation, which also increases pain nerve activity. Cold laser therapy also increases endorphins and enkephalins, which block pain signals and decrease pain sensation. Overall laser therapy reduces painful nerve signals and reducing your perceived pain.

  12. Blood carries nutrients and building blocks to the tissue, and carries waste products away. Increased blood flow to tissues increases and enhances cellular healing. Cold laser therapy increases the formation of capillaries in damaged tissue. Specific laser frequency also increases blood flow to the area treated, to enhance injury repair.

  14. Low level lasers increases enzyme activity to improve metabolic activity that affects cell repair and regeneration. The enzymes are turned on "high" to speed the healing.

  16. Nerves heal very slowly. Lasers speed up this process. Damage to nerves causes numbness, pain, muscle weakness, and altered sensations. Laser therapy treatments enhance nerve function, healing, and reduce pain.

  18. ATP is like gasoline for cells, it is the energy source that cells operate. Injured cells often have low levels of ATP, which decreases their ability to heal and repair. By increasing ATP and "gasoline storage levels," cells have more ATP for healing and repair. Increased mitochondrial production is very important with nerve pain.

  20. Low level laser therapy decreases trigger points and stimulates acupuncture points to decrease muscle and joint pain.

We combine low level laser therapy with a variety of techniques and treatments. Cold laser therapy can be used alone as a single treatment modality, or in conjunction with other Chiropractic, Physical Therapy, massage therapy, or medical treatments.

(Video) Treating thumb osteoarthritis - basal joint OA - with Prolotherapy


Therapeutic treatments for addressing soft tissue injuries involve massage therapy, manual therapy, trigger point therapy, Graston Technique, or Active Release Technique. These treatments increase blood flow, decrease muscle spasms, enhance flexibility, speed healing, and promote proper tissue repair.

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When these treatments are incorporated into a treatment plan patients heal faster and are less likely to have long-term pain or soft tissue fibrosis or scar tissue in the injured muscle. These soft tissue treatments are incorporated with cold laser, therapeutic exercise, and flexibility programs.

Treatment for shoulder injuries often requires a variety of exercises, stretches, conservative treatments, medical treatments, and home therapies. Shoulder injuries can become chronic if the appropriate steps are not taken.

Treatment for elbow injuries can be extensive if the tendinosis is severe. Mild strains can be treated at home with PRICE, home stretches, and exercises. Don't wait for damage to both the shoulder and elbow to seek treatment and therapy.

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Many people do have arthritis or degenerative changes in their elbow, wrist, finger, or thumb joints. Arthritis does not mean you will always have pain in the joints. Degenerative arthritis means the structural Integrity of the bones have changed which alters its gliding, sliding, and hinging motions.

The more severe the arthritic changes the easier it becomes to aggravate the joint and produce pain. Low level laser therapy is excellent at decreasing pain and inflammation in arthritic hand and wrist joints. Especially when cold lasers are combined with prolotherapy or stem cell treatments.

The upper extremity works as a comprehensive unit performing many of the repetitive tasks at home, work, and recreational sports. Injuries to one area of the musculature often indicate that additional damage has been incurred by other muscles.

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Many therapeutic exercises can help restore proper strength and endurance to the elbow flexor muscles. Isometric exercises are often the initial treatment exercises. Followed by single plane rubber band exercises for elbow flexion, extension, pronation, and supination movements. Dynamic exercises involving stability ball push-ups can be performed on the wall or floor. The more unstable of the surface the more effort and stabilization is required of all the upper extremity muscles.

Push-ups on a stability ball enhances neuromuscular learning throughout the neck, scapula, shoulder, upper arm, and lower arm muscles. Additional strength exercises can be found on the arm and shoulder strengthening pages.

(Video) PRP for Thumb Pain


Hauser, R. A., & Feister, W. A. (2013). Treatment of Basal Thumb Osteoarthritis: A Retrospective Study of Dextrose Prolotherapy Injections as an Alternative Treatment. Journal of Prolotherapy, e913-e921.

Loibl, M., Lang, S., Dendl, L. M., Nerlich, M., Angele, P., Gehmert, S., et al. (2016). Leukocyte-Reduced Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment of Basal Thumb Arthritis: A Pilot Study. BioMed Research International.


Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Prolotherapy For Thumb Pain? ›

Research shows that platelet rich plasma Prolotherapy is a safe option to treat the causes of thumb pain such as osteoarthritis. In a clinical research, the patients felt continuous relief after two PRP injections at 3 and 6 months follow-up.

Does PRP help thumb arthritis? ›

A new study published in the journal Cartilage showed that PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections are significantly more effective than cortisone injections for treating symptomatic arthritis of the thumb. 33 patients were randomized to receive either 2 cortisone injections or 2 PRP injections, spaced 2 weeks apart.

Does PRP help hand arthritis? ›

Osteoarthritis of the hand can be a painful condition, making it hard to accomplish simple, everyday activities. We've found that using PRP therapy in the setting of osteoarthritis in the hand can inhibit inflammation, and stimulate new cartilage, providing long-lasting relief.

Does PRP help with tendonitis? ›

PRP is a popular cell-free therapy that is used worldwide to treat tendinopathy. Basic science studies have consistently shown the beneficial effects of PRP on tendons including increased tendon cell proliferation, increased expression of anabolic genes and proteins, and reduced tendon inflammation.

How long does it take for PRP to heal a tendon? ›

PRP will initially cause acute inflammation to heal the problem. That acute inflammation could hurt for a few days. It takes time for the recruited repair cells to come to the injured area and start the repair process. For many tendon injuries, the recovery can be 6-8 weeks or more after the injection.

Does stem cell therapy work for thumb arthritis? ›

Stem cells are highly effective in the treatment of thumb osteoarthritis. Bone marrow-derived stem cells are concentrated in the laboratory and injected into the damaged part of the thumb. Stem cells act by enhancing the body's ability to heal the damaged tissue.

What can you not do after PRP? ›

Avoid applying ice or heat at the site for three days after your injection. Do not apply lotions, oils, or makeup to the injection site for six hours. Avoid strenuous activities and exercise for three days after. Do not smoke or consume alcohol for at least three days post-procedure.

Why is PRP so painful? ›

PRP therapy takes time to work. It is not like a steroid shot that will make you feel better right away. You may feel more pain at first, since we are causing swelling in the area that was already sore. The swelling is needed for the blood cells to start helping you heal for the long term.

Does PRP finger work? ›

Trigger finger is a condition where one finger becomes stuck in a bend position due to inflammation and degeneration of the tendon in the affected finger. PRP injection can restore tendon structure, reduce pain and speed healing.

How do you treat arthritis in your hands? ›

Treatment options include splinting/bracing, medications, injections, non-drug approaches and surgery. Splits or braces support and protect the affected joint, reduce deformity, provide joint stability, lessen strain, and promote proper joint alignment.

Can PRP make things worse? ›

Sometimes the original pain and soreness of the injury remains (it may even get worse), even after an extended rest period after the PRP therapy. Some patients body will reject their own serum and react negatively to the treatment. This is rare, but it does happen.

Do platelets heal tendons? ›

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy uses injections of a concentration of a patient's own platelets to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints. In this way, PRP injections use each individual patient's own healing system to improve musculoskeletal problems.

Can PRP cause damage? ›

A PRP injection is a low-risk procedure and does not usually cause major side effects. The procedure involves a blood draw, so you should make sure you are hydrated and have eaten beforehand to prevent feeling lightheaded. After the procedure, you may experience some soreness and bruising at the injection site.

How painful is a PRP injection? ›

In general, PRP injections are not painful. This may vary by the patient or by the area of the body in which the injection is being made. Your doctor may recommend a local anesthetic to manage this discomfort. General anesthesia typically is not used in conjunction with PRP therapy.

How much rest is needed after PRP? ›

After your PRP Therapy session, we recommend that all patients rest on the day of their procedure. For the next 2 days, we advise limited use of the injection area, but movement is encouraged. This helps the joint recover as the injection is absorbed by the area's surrounding tissues.

Do I need time off work after PRP injection? ›

Note that shoulder joint (as well as other joint) PRP injections may cause some mild swelling or discomfort, but you should be able to resume normal activities almost right away.

Does PRP finger work? ›

Trigger finger is a condition where one finger becomes stuck in a bend position due to inflammation and degeneration of the tendon in the affected finger. PRP injection can restore tendon structure, reduce pain and speed healing.

How successful is thumb joint replacement surgery? ›

Ruch, LRTI has a 96 percent success rate. “Most patients achieve complete pain relief and mobility equal to that of a healthy thumb, with results lasting at least 15 to 20 years,” he says.

How often should you get PRP injections? ›

You may require up to three PRP injections within a six-month period, usually performed two to three weeks apart, but you may be able to achieve significant to complete relief after the first or second shot. Symptom improvement is said to gradually increase as your healing progresses.


1. PRP for non-surgical treatment of thumb pain and osteoarthritis
(Rejuv Medical Southwest - Dr. Jonathan Tait)
2. MoraMD: Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) for Knee Arthritis: Live injection with Dr Steve Mora
(MoraMD #theProAthleteSurgeon)
3. Platelet Rich Plasma for Arthritis of the Thumb
(Cornerstone Naturopathic)
4. Repetitive strain injury (PRP therapy and thumb arthroscopy) - Midland Hand Clinic
(Midland Hand Wrist Elbow Clinic - Patients Channel)
5. VIDEO: Platelet-Rich Plasma: Helping Patients Heal Themselves
(KSAT 12)
6. PRP Injection off thumb arthritis with ultrasound guidance
(Don Buford, MD, RMSK)
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