Whether you’re living with a torn rotator cuff or a degenerative disc disease, your goal for treatment is the same: to ease your pain and return to a more “normal” way of living. Pain medication can provide some help, but it doesn’t target the injury itself. For real relief and healing, we at Mattalino Orthopaedic in Tempe, AZ, recommend regenerative medicine injections, therapies that are both natural and effective.
What Are Regenerative Medicine Injections Used For?
The practice of regenerative medicine harnesses your body’s natural ability to repair and/or replace damaged tissues and organs. This field is often contrasted with traditional medicine, in which symptoms are treated (masked) without fully understanding their underlying cause. That typically means prescription pain killers that produce secondary side effects like nausea, headache, fatigue, and mood swings.
Regenerative medicine injections (RMI), on the other hand, are considered cutting-edge, although the regeneration of tissues and organs is nothing new in nature. A salamander can regrow an amputated limb within a matter of days. Humans also have this ability, although we lost it over time; until the age of 11, we can regenerate a severed fingertip. Similarly, RMI helps restore injured tissues, organs, and bones to a state of health.
How Does It Work?
Many times, patients seek RMI after other treatment modalities have failed. Patients don’t necessarily want to be healed, but rather hope to be relieved of chronic pain caused by injuries in:
By delivering injections directly to the area of dysfunction, we can often cure the condition itself. This allows us to go beyond pain management and safely and effectively address congenital malformations, chronic diseases, and acute injuries. In addition, regenerative medicine injections are safer and more effective than surgery that, at best, cuts and resections damaged tissues before subjecting patients to weeks and possibly even months of recovery.
Traditional Symptom Masking
RMI provides the most natural and potent therapy possible. To understand this, consider the way your body reacts when you sustain an injury, such as to the ankle. Cells signal the healing process to begin, at which time damaged tissues are removed and replaced with those that are new and healthy.
Inflammation also occurs, causing swelling and pain that can be hard to endure. Prescription medications like steroids alleviate the discomfort but also suppress natural healing. This is why many common injuries like ankle sprains and torn ligaments never properly heal.
RMI, however, works with the body rather than against it. Benefits of this treatment include:
- Reduced pain levels
- Potential to stop oral pain relievers
- Improved muscle strength
- Increased mobility
- Restored functionality
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is one of three regenerative medicine injections our office uses. PRP is far more simple than it sounds. We draw your blood – which immediately lets you know it’s biocompatible with your own body – and then place it into a centrifuge to separate the different components. Our goal is to obtain platelets for injecting back into your body.
Platelets often respond first to an injury, and not incidentally. They mediate the release of growth factors crucial to natural healing mechanics. Tissue healing is complex; it requires inflammation, which is controlled by various immune responses, matrix elements, and growth factors known as cytokines. Cytokines are proteins released by the immune system that recruit and activate other cells.
The Healing Process
Stem cells are among those recruited at an injury site. They are equipped with two unique properties that allow them to replace damaged or lost specialty cells: they can divide multiple times to produce new cells and can also mature into other cells the body needs. Stem cells direct growth factors found in the blood to match with receptors in the body. This results in the permanent proliferation of new tissues.
Once injected into a specific site, PRP creates a localized mesh that allows it to remain in the area for healing. PRP then releases intracellular structures that contain growth factors to encourage healing. Specific PRP cells that promote repair include:
- Platelet-derived growth factor, which promotes skin formation, cell replication, and blood vessel growth
- Vascular endothelial growth factor that encourages blood vessel formation
- Transforming growth-factor-beta to spur bone metabolism and matrix growth between cells
- Fibroblast growth factor-2 to sponsor specialized cell growth and blood vessel generation
- Epidermal growth factor to support collagen synthesis, blood vessel growth, and cell differentiation
Studies confirm that PRP can improve tissue healing – including muscles, ligaments, and tendons – temper inflammation, and expedite a return to daily living activities. It’s proven effective for treating osteoarthritis (OA) and is frequently used in other practices like dentistry and cosmetic therapy. PRP can also be combined with other treatment modalities, such as physical therapy and massage, to further improve patient outcomes.
Just as PRP harnesses the body’s natural healing abilities, viscosupplementation acts in a similar way. With this approach, we inject a hyaluronic acid-based lubricator into an arthritic joint. It is especially useful when injected into the knee, where it can reduce pain and improve functionality, although any joint can benefit.
OA is a condition that afflicts around 27 million Americans. It primarily affects cartilage, the soft tissue in joints that prevents friction between bones. In healthy amounts, cartilage allows bones to easily glide and absorbs the shock caused by walking, running, and general weight-bearing. But with OA, cartilage breaks down at the surface and then wears away.
Synovial fluid in the knee, which also absorbs shock, similarly loses its ability to lubricate the joint. In combination, these effects cause:
- Joint stiffness
- Limited mobility
How HA Helps
The body naturally produces hyaluronic acid, an elastic and sticky substance that comprises the synovial fluid. In sufficient levels, HA lubricates cartilage and protects joints from eroding. But OA depletes hyaluronic acid levels so cartilage becomes more vulnerable to friction. This essentially means the bones within the joint are at risk for rubbing against each other, thereby weakening the joint’s structure and functionality.
Injecting HA directly where it is needed can slow the progression of OA and restore joint mobility. It can also significantly reduce pain and inflammation to make activity more comfortable. This can lead to a greater quality of life, in which patients have more choices in when and how they physically move. While the effects of HA may take time to develop, most patients begin to feel improvements within three to five weeks, and results can last up to a year.
OrthoBiologics comprise the last of our regenerative medicine injections and include such substances as bone marrow concentrate and fat grafts. They, too, help joints, bones, muscles, and tendons recover when injected into precise areas. For improved understanding, orthbiologics can be categorized on the basis of two traits: from where they originated and the type of tissue that’s being used.
Let’s start with autologous substances, which come from the same person who is being treated. To illustrate, PRP is an example of an autologous orthobiologic (that’s quite a mouthful). Allogeneic, on the other hand, describes substances derived from another patient. One example might be birth tissues from a baby injected into an adult.
How They Are Used
Musculoskeletal injuries are not limited to people of a certain age. In fact, they are so prevalent that one in three patients live with them on a daily basis. This makes the demand for a quicker return to preinjury states that much more important. Here is where orthobiologics shine, as they can speed the healing of fractured bones and injured ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Even better, orthobiologics are derived from the body’s natural substances. By injecting them in concentrations that are many times higher than normal, they can provide for more efficient and effective healing.
Examples of OrthoBiologics
- Bone grafts
- Platelet-rich plasma
- Autologous blood
- Stem cells
Bone grafts have specific properties that allow them to stimulate new bone formation. Autologous blood and PRP deliver growth factors (as explained earlier) to diseased or injured areas to support healing processes. Finally, stem cells replenish dead or dying cells in areas where tissues are severely incapacitated.
Understanding the Body
While the basic skeleton is comprised of bones and joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are the primary facilitators of movement. But muscles lack the inherent ability to rebuild damaged cells after injury, and tendons lack the necessary blood supply. Hence, these injuries can persist for years, causing needless pain, and may be chronic or acute in nature.
Chronic conditions pose the most difficulty from a patient perspective because they endure without relief. They are often the result of overuse, starting as micro-traumatic injuries that eventually magnify and degenerate tissues. OrthoBiologics can provide real recovery in less time than the body’s natural processes. This means a faster return to daily activities.
Benefits of Regenerative Medicine
We’ve talked about pain relief throughout this piece but would like to point out RMI offers a natural solution to long-term pain. This means no side effects, no chemicals, and no risk for dependency. In addition, regenerative therapy can reduce inflammation and reduce, if not heal, such conditions as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Degenerative disc disease
- Lower back pain
- Sports injuries
RMI also improves the actual health of treated bones and tissues, going beyond even traditional methods that correct damage. We suffuse tissues with super-concentrated and natural substances that help treated body parts grow stronger. This means improved strength throughout the entire musculoskeletal system.
Less Painful Treatment
In talking about pain, we would be remiss in not mentioning the pain associated with most conventional treatments. This can take a further toll on the body and impede your healing progress. RMI, by contrast, delivers targeted injections right where they are needed. And treatment sessions are quick, usually less than an hour in most cases. While recovering, you’ll be more comfortable than you would in trying to heal from both your injury and a painful treatment.
You probably know that traditional medicine often uses a blanket approach in treating patients. This means you get the same pain medication as any other patient, the same instructions for taking said medication, and instructions to return for a follow-up. But regenerative medicine is personalized, both in the treatment plan itself and in many of the treatments. PRP, for instance, comes from your own body to support natural healing processes.
We deliver beneficial substances, like growth factors, in higher concentrations than normally found within the body. Studies confirm this allows healing to happen more quickly and more completely. And, unlike many oral medications, we don’t suppress the body’s responses. The goal is to let nature run its course with as little outside interference as possible.
Harness Your Body’s Powers
RMI allows you to overcome chronic pain, repair damaged tissues, and improve overall musculoskeletal health. It is far more natural and comfortable than many other treatment options and works with the body’s natural processes to optimize healing. Call Mattalino Orthopaedic in Tempe, AZ, today to schedule your consultation and learn more about this exciting treatment.