Regenerative medicine is becoming increasingly more popular as an alternative to surgery. At first, it sounded like a futuristic invention that people only speculated about. Then you began to hear about dogs and horses getting these injections for torn tendons to avoid surgery and now humans. Doctors have been using this procedure in Europe for 10-15 years! But the question remains: does it work?!
Yes, it does.
First, let’s dive into what regenerative medicine actually is. There are a few types: Hyaluronic Acid (HA), Prolotherapy, Stem Cell Therapy, and Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP).
Hyaluronic Acid (HA) Therapy modulates tissue hydration and is used as a regenerative or preventative therapy to treat individuals with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee and/or ankle. If you have exhausted routine treatment options, such as cortisone injections, and you want to avoid invasive surgery, then HA injections may be just what you’re looking for. HA injections cushion and lubricate your joints and has long-lasting results. HA therapy causes decreased production of pro- inflammatory mediators (cytokines), a decreased secretion of degradative proteases, and increased production of native (your own) hyaluronic acid and matrix proteins.
Prolotherapy is also an injection that is targeted to several points around your pain area. The injection contains a special solution that is used to stimulate the body’s natural healing process. Often times, the body turns off the healing process before an injury site is fully healed. This formula irritates the tissue and makes the body realize that the injury has not finished healing. These injections can take place in a joint space, ligament, or tendon insertion point. Prolotherapy is often used to tighten connective tissue structures around an unstable joint, such as the shoulder and knee. Arthritic joints also respond well to tightening the joint capsule that becomes stressed when the articular cartilage thins and degenerates.
Stem Cell Therapy is used to aid the body in quick healing, regenerate tissue, and diminish pain. Stem cells are often found near blood vessels, but have also been isolated from bone, fat, skeletal muscle, synovial fluid and umbilical cord blood. They have been doing the grunt work in our body’s healing process since birth. As we age, we produce less and less stem cells and can lead to slow healing and degenerative conditions such as Osteoarthritis (OA). These stem cells can be injected anywhere into the body and will differentiate into new tissue cells, such as bone (osteogenic), cartilage (chondrogenic), and fat. They also have potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) involves taking a blood sample and extracting your platelets. Platelets contain many bioactive factors that initiate and regulate wound healing. This injection is a concentration of your own platelets that have a high number of growth factors that promote healing in tendons, ligaments, joints, articular cartilage and muscles. PRP causes an increase in secretion of tissue growth factors such as platelet derived growth factors (GF), vascular endothelial GF and transforming GF. PRP also suppresses the inflammatory response by the secretion of anti-inflammatory cytokines, while increasing hyaluronic acid production.
Patria Leath knows exactly how well regenerative medicine works as she struggled with a posterior tibial tendon tear after hiking in March of 2017.
“I was just hiking 5 miles in Gatlinburg. It was nothing I hadn’t done before, but when I began to experience excruciating pain in my right foot near the end of the hike, I knew something was wrong. After a MRI, it was revealed that I had sustained a posterior tibial tendon tear. Surgery was offered to me as an option, but after already having two knee replacements, I really didn’t want to go that route. I opted to do two injections of PRP and on injection of prolotherapy. Instead of being non-weight bearing for 6-8 weeks and then weight bearing as tolerated for 4-5 months afterward, I was fully healed in 6 months with virtually no down time! I only had reduced activity for part of the recovery period and could definitely walk the whole time! I would definitely recommend trying regenerative medicine before opting for surgery.” –Patria Leath
Apple HealthCare is located in our building right next door and offers regenerative medicine services, podiatry, and chiropractic care! If you’re interested in seeing if you are a candidate for regenerative medicine, feel free to call Apple HealthCare at 865-951-2975 and get set up for an appointment!