Regenerative medicine is a widely used treatment for several types of diseases, from Parkinson’s disease and paralysis to autoimmune states and pain management. This term applies to a branch of medicine that focuses on ways to repair, replace or regenerate damaged human tissue.
Broadly speaking, regenerative medicine describes the replacement or regeneration of human cells, tissue or organs to restore, establish or regenerate normal function. Regenerative medicine uses the healing power of your own body to relieve chronic pain in joints and tendons. Our bodies have the ability can to heal themselves, but sometimes pain extends beyond the expected time of healing. Has the body given up on healing the injury? Can we jump-start the healing process?
Rapidly emerging treatments
These rapidly emerging treatments are non-surgical, in-office procedures that use your own blood and cells instead of medications. When medical professionals inject your body’s own stem cells or platelet-rich plasma into a painful area, they can intensify your natural healing process and regeneration.
The procedure is performed in an outpatient surgery center or hospital using ultrasound or X-ray imaging. Your physician will decide which joints, tendons, ligaments or muscles to inject based on the location of your pain and physical examination findings. Platelet-rich plasma is derived from your own blood by taking a sample of venous blood, placing it in a special tube, and spinning the blood in a centrifuge. This separates whole blood into its components, including red blood cells, platelets and plasma (the non-cellular fluid in blood). The middle layer constitutes platelet-rich plasma, which contains highly concentrated platelets, the cells that normally promote blood clotting. This component will be injected to the selected area.
The injection contains specialized chemicals called growth factors from your own blood. The basic idea behind platelet-rich plasma injection is to deliver high concentrations of growth factors to an area of injury, with the hope of stimulating a healing response and reducing inflammation in the tissue.
Platelet-rich plasma is derived from your own blood (called "autologous" transplantation) and there is no chance of having an allergic or immune reaction. The side effects or complications of these injections are extremely rare. However, there are always potential risks when placing a needle in the body. These include bleeding, infection and worsened pain.
Immediately after the procedure, you shouldn’t put ice on the injection site and use any anti-inflammatory drugs for two weeks. You may feel more pain at first, since we are causing swelling in the area that was already sore. The swelling is needed for the blood cells to start helping your body to heal.
Regenerative medicine injection is different from typical injection that is done for pain relief, so it does not immediately take away your pain. These injections take some time to work and the results are often long-term. The early improvement in pain might be seen in a few weeks and your pain may progressively continue to improve. Sometimes more than one regenerative medicine treatment is needed for pain relief.
Traditional medicine treatments like surgery, steroid injections or pills used to be considered the main options to relieve chronic pain, but they lose their beneficial effects over time due to side effects or tolerance. The scientific evidence behind regenerative medicine continues to grow and there is strong support on efficacy of platelet-rich plasma. Research shows that regenerative medicine could relieve flareups of painful conditions such as inflammatory arthritis, osteoarthritis and tendonitis. Your chronic pain may significantly improve by regenerative medicine, and you may regain mobility and quality of life if your own body tissues are able to begin to heal itself.
Learn more about pain management at Ochsner.