Technological advances in medicine are transforming what’s possible for our health and wellness. Ironically, the most sophisticated healing system we know of is also the oldest: the human body itself, which has powerful regenerative capabilities. Today, doctors are able to harness and target those capabilities and achieve remarkable new remedies for injuries, disease, and pain through regenerative medicine. Right Path Pain & Spine Center in Davenport, FL offers extensive expertise with these exciting therapies.
What Is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative is the general term for a series of techniques that build, restore, or replace damaged tissues with fresh tissue using the body’s own repair mechanisms. Our bodies are endowed with sophisticated healing systems: cells, nutrients, and proteins to name a few. This is why a cut in the skin starts to clot in moments and how a broken bone is able to mend itself in weeks.
As we age, many of our key internal parts become worn or damaged. We aren’t as strong or flexible, and we don’t heal or recover as quickly. Injuries, even those from long ago, cause pain and change our ability to function. These problems are often caused or made worse by chronic diseases such as arthritis or diabetes. The body’s regenerative capabilities become stretched and are unable to assign enough healing agents in the right spots to repair the damage adequately.
Practitioners of regenerative medical techniques utilize a series of therapies that collect healing agents and inject them strategically to where they’re needed in the body. When targeted in this way, the body’s healing agents go to work at the cellular level to build fresh new tissue to replace damaged tissue. Dramatic outcomes in pain relief and restored function are possible through these therapies. In many cases, they are not only an alternative to invasive surgery but the only real alternative.
What Conditions Does It Treat?
Regenerative medicine has been used successfully for a wide variety of conditions. One day, it may well be able to grow entire new organs, replace worn heart valves, or reverse the course of progressive diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease. Today, regenerative therapies are most often used to solve issues of pain in the joints and back. Some popular issues it treats include:
- Torn or stretched ligaments in the knee, shoulder or elbow
- Inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis
- Worn cartilage caused by osteoarthritis
- Pain from bulging vertebra discs
- Degenerative neurologic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis
- Back pain from lumbar degenerative disc disease (LDD)
Is It Proven?
Regenerative medicine has been used in various forms for decades, though the general concept is much older than that. Stem cells, which are a star player in regenerative techniques, are cells that have the potential to be grown into different types of cells in the body. Most stem cells for today’s therapies are harvested from the patient’s own bone marrow or fat tissue.
The phrase “regenerative medicine” was coined in 1999 and describes a type of treatment rather than a specific treatment. The therapy describes any one of various procedures that uses natural substances from the body (usually, but not necessarily, your own) to grow new restorative tissue.
So, is regenerative therapy proven? Yes and no. It has certainly been well-proven on the many procedures that doctors use it for every day to provide healing and pain relief for their patients. But other, more ambitious uses for regenerative ideas are on the horizon that are so new they will only be proven over time. This includes envisioned future miracles such as growing new organs, curing diabetes, and tissue transplants that will actually prevent diseases.
What Are the Types of Therapies?
Notwithstanding more ambitious use of medical techniques that are still in the research stages, today’s clinicians can perform wonders for their patients with the following types of regenerative therapy:
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cells are essentially the building blocks of both animal and plant life. They exist in our bodies from the moment we are conceived. The job of a stem cell is to create other cells. This is done by the way cells always “multiply” by dividing themselves into more than one cell. When a stem cell divides, part of it will remain a stem cell. The other new part can become one of many different types of cells, including bone, blood cells, muscles, and nerves.
Because stem cells have the potential of developing into many kinds of different cells, doctors can now use them to repair worn or damaged tissue. The most common usage today for this treatment is in the orthopedic sphere. Stem cell therapy has been shown to be successful in repairing ligaments, tendons, and bone degradations.
In this therapy, the doctor injects stem cells into the troubled area of the body. The procedures take about an hour and a half, and many patients report feelings of relief soon after the first treatment. Fuller regeneration takes weeks or months, and in some cases, multiple treatments are recommended. There are virtually no side effects from stem cell therapy, and since the stem cells generally originate from the patient’s own body, there’s little chance of rejection or complications.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a technique where a small amount of the patient’s blood is drawn from the body and then purified in a centrifuge. The doctor then injects this concentrated solution into the body, directly into the area where treatment is needed. The concentrated solution is heavy with platelets: one of the body’s most effective healing agents.
Platelets are tiny blood cells that are designed for coagulation. This is the process by which bleeding is clotted. When a blood vessel in the body gets damaged, the platelets speed to the site of damage and plug the bleeding so that further damage is minimized and a physical foundation is set for the tissue to heal.
Platelets also send out chemical signals to attract more platelets. These reinforcements then stick to the other platelets in a process called aggregation. Once the damage has been clotted by the platelets, additional healing agents and nutrients from the body begin to form new tissue. PRP therapy is especially widespread in sports medicine, where it has been used successfully in everything from tennis and golf elbow to rotator cuff injuries in baseball pitchers.
Prolotherapy is a long-established technique for tissue regeneration. As with the other regenerative therapies, a substance is injected into the problem area by the doctor. However, instead of the injection containing the patient’s own bio-agents, a concocted substance of glucose– essentially sugar water–is used.
While the glucose solution is generally harmless to the patient, the application of it on the injured tissue is highly sensitive to the sugar concentration in the solution. As a result, the tissues near the prolotherapy injection become irritated. This sends signals out to the body’s repair agents, which rush to the scene of the artificially-induced “damage” and begin to rebuild the area with fresh new tissue.
Prolotherapy has been in use for many decades and has been shown to be an effective alternative treatment in situations where invasive surgery is unwanted or impossible. Common body areas for this treatment include the knee, elbow, shoulder, and back. Because new tissue is grown at the problem area, results from prolotherapy can be virtually permanent for the patient.
Lipogems is a regenerative technique that uses the restorative functions that are resident in our body’s fat cells. Our fat contains a variety of cells, including stem cells, that can repair or restore damaged tissues. The clinical argument for a Lipogems injection is that the injected substances harvested from our body fat tends to stay in the affected area, thus prolonging the healing and restorative effects.
The therapy for Lipogems is not dissimilar to that of PRP. The doctor uses a minimally-invasive technique that removes a small section of body fat that is then specially processed. The process removes the blood, fatty oils and other unnecessary components, leaving only the desired fat cells for injection. Lipogems is the name of the purified substance.
Like other regenerative techniques, the process of tissue recovery takes weeks or a few months for full effect. This is because all regenerative medicine is based on the idea of growing and replacing fresh new body tissue: a process which takes time even when the process is artificially sped up.
Who Is a Good Candidate?
Anyone who suffers from pains and ailments due to age or injury can be a candidate for regenerative therapy. In many cases, the only alternative is an invasive surgery, which is costly, entails some risk (as all surgery does) and means a certain amount of downtime for recovery.
Further, surgery can’t solve all problems. As just one example, a flattened spinal disc can’t be fixed with surgery, but it can be repaired through regenerative medicine. A rotator cuff injury can be repaired with conventional surgery, but recovery takes up to a year. With regenerative techniques, the injury can often fix itself in a few months, with relatively little downtime.
Finally, it is worth considering that even in a world of advanced medical imaging, not all problem areas in the body can be seen clearly enough to warrant invasive surgery. For example, many cartilage problems are hidden deep within the joints. where imaging technology has a hard time penetrating. Regenerative therapies offer a potential answer to the problem without having to resort to more drastic medical measures that may not be necessary.
How Can I Get Started?
If you’ve been suffering from pain in the back or joints, you owe it to yourself to investigate regenerative remedies. Pain is not something we are meant to live with. Chronic pain not only has its own direct effect, but it also creeps into other physical and mental aspects of our lives. It negatively impacts our sleep and our mood. It affects our families. friends, and routines and degrades our quality of life.
Many maladies, especially in the back and joints, that are the result of age, wear, injury or disease can be effectively treated with regenerative therapies. The treatment is quicker and safer than surgery, with results that can be long-lasting or permanent. To find out how these revolutionary techniques can solve your pain issues, contact the experts at Right Path Pain & Spine Center, in Davenport FL today for a consultation.