Platelet-Rich Plasma and Rehabilitation for Upper Extremity Musculoskeletal Pathologies A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis

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Kaitlin Kirker
Michael Masaracchio


Exercise, Platelet-Rich Plasma, Rehabilitation


Background: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is considered in clinical practice for its role in facilitating the body’s own healing processes, with the potential to complement physical therapy in managing musculoskeletal pathologies of the upper extremity.

Methods: Eligible studies must be randomized with clinical/quasi-experimental trials with complete data analysis, and published in English. They have to recruit participants aged >18 years; have at least two groups, with one intervention group receiving PRP injection alone or PRP injection and rehabilitation, and the comparison group receiving either rehabilitation alone or a control group receiving saline and rehabilitation; and finally include at least one outcome measure of pain, disability, or quality of life. An electronic search was conducted using PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, Pedro, and Methodological quality was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias (RoB) tool. The grading of recommendations assessment, development, and evaluation approach was used to provide an overall assessment of the quality of evidence. Meta-analyses were conducted across outcomes within each pathology when possible.

Results: A total of 13 studies assessing adhesive capsulitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, lateral epicondylal-gia, rotator cuff tendinopathy, subacromial impingement syndrome, and shoulder osteoarthritis were included with an average RoB score of 8.77 out of 12 across all studies. Meta-analyses for rotator cuff tendinopathy (n = 49) revealed a significant effect on pain (cm) (mean difference [MD] -2.53; 95% confidence interval [CI]: −5.02, −0.04; I2 statistic = 51%; P = 0.05), quality of life (MD 16.82; 95% CI: 0.40, 33.25; I2 = 0%; P = 0.04), and disability (standardized mean difference [SMD]: −0.64; 95% CI: −1.24, −0.04; I2 = 0%; P = 0.04) favoring PRP and physical therapy as long-term follow-up (moderate level of evidence). All other meta-analyses for adhesive capsulitis and carpal tunnel demonstrated nonsignificant effects.

Conclusions: This systematic review demonstrated that PRP is a beneficial adjunct to physical therapy for reducing pain and improving disability and quality of life (moderate level of evidence) when compared to placebo plus physical therapy for the management of rotator cuff tendinopathy.

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