Sue Lavigne had the worst case of tennis elbow in both arms. She cringes whenever she talks about how much it hurt.
"The pain was so severe, I was not even able to pick up my grandson," she said.
Ulysses Jackson has the same problem as tennis elbow only in Achilles tendon.
"We tried the booth, sleeping with the boot, cortisone shot, nothing seemed to work," he said.
Like Sue already has, Ulysses is having a new treatment for tendon pain called platelet-rich plasma therapy or PRP. I'll tell you how it worked for Sue later.
The cornerstone of PRP is the patient's own blood. Once it's drawn, it goes into a machine that spins until platelets that contain healing growth factors can be extracted. Dr. Joseph Broyles then re-injects them into the patient.
"Those growth factors act as signals to surrounding cells to come in a repair the damage to the tendon," he explained.
Jackson's Achilles pain has progressed to a condition called tendonosis. It's caused by microscopic frays in the tendon that won't heal, often because of age-related wear and tear. The problem has also been linked to repetitive activities involved in everything from sports to office jobs.
Ulysses' entire treatment was done in the doctor's office. It lasted less than an hour. But, it takes about six months to feel relief. That's how long it was before Lavigne saw significant improvement. She described the pain on a scale of 1 to 10.
"Before, this pain was a nine. After the six months, my pain level was down to a two and it just gradually goes away," she said.
An orthopedic surgeon, Broyles has had so much success with PRP for tennis elbow he rarely recommends surgery for it anymore.
"I haven't done that surgery in almost two years because of that," he said.
While Broyles sees potential for platelet rich plasma therapy, he's limited its use to certain tendons where he thinks it will be the most effective. PRP is not a one size fits all solution for people with tendon pain.
But for some, it's the only thing that works. Ulysses Jackson just hopes it works for him.
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