Angela's Story: Platelet Rich Plasma Mends a Torn Rotator Cuff

Angela's injured rotator cuff first announced itself in September 2017. A semi-regular golfer who played with a weekly nine-hole league, Angela was on a vacation in New York that included some time on the links. 

"We played 18 holes the day we got there," she says. A day or two later, she was on the course again, playing a round with her sister. But this time, on the 14th hole, the pain in her right shoulder flared up, and she knew she was finished — for a while, at least. "I can't do this anymore," she told her sister. "My arm's killing me." 

After she returned home, the pain in Angela's shoulder grew steadily worse. "I was miserable," she says. "I was taking Aleve® all the time, and I was icing my shoulder three times a day with one of those big ice packs that pitchers use." Her physician, Premier Orthopedics’ Joseph Rubino, MD, sent Angela for an MRI, which told the tale. 

"I had two small tears in my rotator cuff," she says. The rotator cuff is a support structure of muscle and tendon that helps the shoulder move and remain stable. Her treatment options included surgery, a cortisone shot, or a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection

"I told Dr. Rubino I didn't want surgery. And though some people were telling me I should get the cortisone shot, I didn't want to do that because my understanding was that cortisone might bring down the inflammation without fixing the underlying problem. I was afraid I might just keep making the injury worse." 

Though Angela was skeptical about PRP at first ("It sounded a little like voodoo," she laughs), she decided to give it a try.

PRP injections are a treatment option using the patient's own platelets to treat injuries to tendons, muscles, ligaments and some joints. Blood is drawn in the doctor's office, and the plasma is collected with the use of a centrifuge and injected into the injured spot, where its concentrated healing properties can go to work on the injury. PRP injections are frequently used for sport-related and orthopedic treatments such as tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, tendonitis and rotator-cuff problems. 

Dr. Rubino referred Angela to his colleague Jeffrey A. James, DO, with Premier Orthopedics, for treatment. She received the PRP injection in Dr. James' office in early March 2018. The whole procedure, she says, took just a matter of minutes. Afterward, Angela kept her arm in a sling for a week or so and took medication to manage residual pain from the treatment and the injury. "Then all of a sudden," she says, "I just started getting better." 

A week later, she was off the pain medication, and by late June she had returned to full mobility and the pain in her shoulder was gone.

"At my follow-up appointment, I told Dr. James that I hadn't had a lot of faith in the treatment beforehand, but that I should have, because it really helped me a lot."

Best of all, Angela is back to the sport she loves. "I played golf last Sunday — that was my first time back since the treatment. I stopped after five holes because I want to take my time and get back to it slowly. But there was no pain."