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What's the Difference Between PRP Injections vs. a Cortisone Shot?

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 3 July 2018
What's the Difference Between PRP Injections vs. a Cortisone Shot?

Those suffering from chronic pain have more treatment options than ever before. While Platelet-rich plasma therapy is swiftly gaining mainstream notice for it's safe and effective treatment of long-term pain, many doctors will still recommend traditional cortisone injections first.

But what are the main differences between PRP injections and cortisone treatments? Which is safer and more effective? The answers are complex, and while they'll both provide pain relief, there are some pretty major differences in how they go about it.

Ultimately, consult a trained medical professional before undergoing either cortisone or PRP therapy, but go in with these facts in mind.

What Are Cortisone Injections?

Cortisone injections are created from one key substance: corticosteroids. A fully legal form of steroids, corticosteroids do still possess similar pros and cons of their anabolic cousins.

They're used due to the extremely potent anti-inflammatory properties they possess, and are commonly recommended to patients who have severe joint pain. Like a PRP injection, cortisone is administered directly into the target tendon or joint that needs relief. With corticosteroids being as powerful as they are, physicians will limit the amount of injections a patient receives due to potential harmful side effects.

Cortisone injections provide instant gratification, and a quick-fix solution to problematic pain that is caused by inflammation. If someone is really suffering, they might not be able to wait the lengthier time for a PRP injection to kick in, opting for the faster alternative.

What is Platelet-Rich Plasma?

Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP for short, is a stem cell injection therapy that uses the stem cells within a patient's blood to treat their joint and muscle plain.

First, we withdraw 2060 cc of blood to be placed in a centrifuge that separates the stem cell rich PRP components from the blood. PRP contains a high amount of growth factors, which makes healing fast and more effective. Once separated, it is then re-injected into the patient and take effect over time. No additional chemicals or medications are added.

PRP Therapy Vs. Cortisone

There are a few vital differences between the two pain treatments, but maybe the most significant is cortisone injections provide temporary relief, while PRP therapy reduces pain and heals the injured area. PRP treatment has healing properties that spur cellular growth and tissue regeneration, slowly rebuilding the painful area over time. Cortisone shots merely mask the pain, albeit quicker than a PRP injection, but will do nothing to facilitate healing or repairs in the body.

In fact, cortisone shots shut down healing altogether. The two areas corticosteroids 'help' with pain and inflammation are elements that actually encourage the body to heal itself. Pain restricts movement, preventing further injury. Inflammation is the body's rallying call to stem cells and other growth factors to mend the targeted area.

The other concern with cortisone shots is they also prevent ligaments and joints from fully healing, resulting in the injury recurring several months down the road. There are some cases where they've caused nearby bones or ligaments to deteriorate due to the shots shutting down any healing in the general area.

PRP treatment, on the other hand, doesn't come with as many risks. Since PRP therapy uses a patient's own blood, it's very rare complications will arise during or post-injection process. The bioactive proteins in blood facilitate and manage healing too, meaning PRP provides both pain relief over time, and heals the damaged tissue in a two-birds-with-one-stone deal.

The downside of PRP therapy is that patients won't feel immediate effects like they will with cortisone shots, they will come gradually over 4-6 months. Not only will the benefits of pain relief be felt, but it'll be significantly more effective thanks to the healing properties of PRP.

However, PRP treatment is also much costlier than regular cortisone injections, though some reimbursements can be offered from some insurance companies if it's been pre-authorized. Still, it can be seen as a long-term investment for some patients, as PRP therapy is known to postpone, and even prevent, the need for potential surgeries. People who opt for cortisone injections OFTEN end up needing surgery for their ailment, either because the area has been denied the ability to heal, or from the damage and deterioration from the corticosteroids themselves.


While cortisone shots deliver that instant pain relief chronic pain sufferers may be longing for, PRP therapy ARE the better alternative in the long run. Thanks to the healing properties of PRP, patients can both find relief and long-term health benefits from this type of treatment.

To learn more about the PRP therapies we offer at our RegenerVate clinic, contact us today!

Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Stoddard is a sport medicine and injection physician in Toronto and is the Medical Director of RegenerVate. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sport Medicine. His injection training, including ultrasound, PRP and Prolotherapy, was primarily done in the USA. He is a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM), is married and a proud father of two boys. He is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
Tags: Treatment Options

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