Regenerative medicine is the process of repairing tissue lost due to age, disease, damage, or congenital defects. It is an integral part of helping patients alleviate pain, increase mobility, and improve their quality of life.
Though there has been significant progress in medicine, current evidence-based and palliative treatments are increasingly unable to keep pace with patients’ needs, especially in an aging population. Today, there are many new ways to treat spine and joint pain successfully. We are now treating inflammatory conditions and joint pain with regenerative medicine. These therapies have the potential to fully heal damaged tissues, offering new hope for most people who have conditions that may be beyond repair with other treatments.
Regenerative therapy uses a patient’s own tissues (autologous) or tissue grafts from other human sources (allogenic or homologous) to initiate the healing process. Treatment includes Stem Cell Therapy, Platelet-Rich Plasma, and Phototherapy. Regenerative medicine itself isn’t new. But advances in developmental and cell biology, immunology, and other fields have unlocked new opportunities to refine existing regenerative therapies and develop new ones.
Some of the painful conditions regenerative medicine can treat include:
- Osteoarthritis (knees and shoulders)
- Plantar fasciitis
- Wrist and joint pain
- Tennis or golfers elbow
- Rotator cuff tears
- Muscle and tendon injuries (such as calf and hamstrings)
Below, we highlight some of the benefits of these procedures and the conditions they address.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cells are the body’s raw building materials that aid the body’s natural healing process. These cells form all other specialized cells in the body. Under the right conditions, stem cells divide to become new cells. These new cells can either become new stem cells (self-renewal), or they can become specialized cells (differentiation) with a more specific function, such as blood cells, muscle cells, or bone. Also, in many tissues, adult stem cells serve essentially as an internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells, as long as the person is alive.
Scientists believe an adult stem cell is an undifferentiated cell (not yet developed into a specialized cell) that exists among differentiated cells in a tissue or organ. The primary role of the adult stem cell in a living organism is to maintain and repair the tissue.
The injection of stem cells at the point of pain helps with the management of inflammatory conditions such as tendonitis, and joint pain associated with early arthritis and cartilage damage. These injections help treat conditions that were unresponsive to alternative therapies. There is evidence that the benefits may include dramatic anti-inflammatory effects and the potential to aid tissue repair.
The stem cells often used to treat disease are hematopoietic stem cells. These are the blood cell-forming adult stem cells found in bone marrow. Every type of blood cell in the bone marrow begins as a stem cell. These stem cells are immature cells that are able to make other blood cells.
The use of stem cell therapy in regenerative medicine helps promote the natural reparative process of the body. Scientists have found that stem cells, and their derivatives, can help repair diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue.
Physicians and researchers are developing entirely new ways to treat and manage chronic diseases such as degenerative nerve, bone, and joint conditions, as well as diabetes and even heart disease. Researchers believe that stem cell-based therapies may one day be used to treat devastating ailments like paralysis and Alzheimer disease.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
Blood is made up of four components: red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. Platelets are blood cells that have several functions in the body. One is to promote blood clotting to help avoid excessive bleeding, such as from a cut. The blood’s platelets also contain proteins that help wounds heal.
Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy uses only the blood’s Plasma-Rich Platelets. The therapy is designed to increase the numbers of platelets in the body and deliver a large concentration of healing growth factors via an injection that can boost tissue recovery.
To obtain the platelets, doctors draw a small amount of blood from the patient. The blood is processed in a tabletop centrifuge to separate the platelet-rich plasma which is then injected into the area needing healing. The injection raises the level of platelets from 5 to 10 times more than the untreated blood.
Platelet-Rich Therapy supports faster healing of soft tissue injuries of tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The treatment uses the body’s own blood to stimulate tissue naturally for wound healing, and may eliminate the need for more extensive treatment, like surgery.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy has made headlines, often because it is favored by professional athletes to help recover from an injury. Some doctors are now using platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP injections) to promote soft tissue-healing.
Ligaments can take time, and be difficult, to heal, which can make PRP an attractive option for anyone who has experienced tissue injuries. In addition to ligaments, tendons and muscles can benefit from the use of platelet-rich plasma therapy.
Doctors have also used PRP to reduce the inflammation of osteoarthritis. Research on PRP in 2013 published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that PRP injections helped to reduce knee osteoarthritis pain compared to saline injections. A 2014 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that three rounds of PRP injections reduced symptoms in patients with chronic patellar tendinopathy (a knee injury).
Phototherapy is also called Proliferative Therapy, Non-Surgical Ligament and Tendon Reconstruction, or Regenerative Joint Injection. It is a recognized orthopedic procedure that stimulates the body’s healing processes to strengthen and repair injured and painful joints, and connective tissue.
Phototherapy consists of a series of injections, several weeks apart. The doctor injects a mildly irritating substance, originally dextrose or sugar water, at the area of pain or instability. Now, newer formulas include Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and autologous (cells obtained from the same individual) adult stem cells.
The injection of the solution stimulates the body’s healing response which naturally increases blood flow. Usually, an area of chronic pain (such as joints, ligaments, tendons, or even discs) has an inadequate blood supply. In turn, the body lays down additional healing tissues, such as fibrous tissue or collagen. This often thickens or strengthens the ligaments or tendon, thus, reducing the pain. Additional treatments repeat the process, allowing a gradual buildup of tissue to restore the original strength to the area.
The original term for this therapy was “sclerotherapy,” coined in the 1930’s when this treatment was discovered and included both joint and vein injections. Today the term “phototherapy” is used for joint, ligament and tendon injections, while “sclerotherapy” is used for the treatment of varicose veins, spider veins, and other vascular abnormalities.
HealthFirst Advanced Medical Solutions
HealthFirst Advanced Medical Solutions in Aiken, SC is an integrated medical practice with a goal of providing the highest quality pain management care to every patient. Whether pain is the result of an injury or from another condition, HealthFirst offers many different treatment options, including regenerative medicine (stem cell therapy, PRP therapy, and phototherapy).
HealthFirst utilizes a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies to restore normal function and allow patients to regain an active lifestyle while minimizing the need for opiates. As a practice member of HealthFirst, you are our top priority. Our goal is to help you achieve the best possible quality of life.
To schedule an appointment, please contact us online, request a call back, or call our office at 803.360.3637.