Regenerative Medicine

Management of orthopedic conditions is often accomplished through rehabilitation, surgery, steroid injections, and most commonly a combination of these treatments. Stem cell and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments have gained attention in recent years as less invasive methods for healing tissue. Together, these treatments are referred to as “regenerative medicine”.

Both stem cell and platelet-rich plasma treatments are aimed at returning damaged tissue to a normal, healthy state by promoting the body’s natural healing process. Small cells in the blood called platelets begin the healing cascade by signaling damage and recruiting other cells to the region. These cells include stem cells which mend damaged tissue and replace it with new, healthy tissue.

PRP treatments use one’s own blood to provide a concentrated source of the platelets to begin the healing cascade. Stem cell therapies use stem cells (often from bone marrow in the pelvis) to repair the damaged area with new tissue. Stem cells have a unique ability to become any cell type in the body, which allows them to heal a variety of tissues from muscle to discs to bone.

Physical therapists have a unique role in stem cell and PRP treatments. Physical therapists guide the plan of care following an injection. A physical therapist will identify and help to improve faulty movement patterns that may have led to injury. Physical therapists also guide the return to activity after regenerative procedures just as they guide the return to activity after a surgery or injury.

Evidence on the effectiveness of regenerative medicine is promising. Research shows that PRP and stem cell treatments can be beneficial for a variety of conditions from chronic tennis elbow to degenerative discs in the spine. The amount of research to support these treatments, however, is still limited so they are rarely covered by insurance at this time.

Regenerative medicine is an exciting alternative to “traditional” management of orthopedic conditions, and it is likely that regenerative treatments will become more widely available in coming years

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