The field of regenerative medicine has been growing in acceptance as people look for ways to treat sports injuries without surgery or drugs. Regenerative therapies are also being used after surgery to reduce recovery time. In many cases, patients suffering from chronic sports injuries that have not responded to other treatments will try regenerative therapies to find relief. Here are some of the regenerative therapies commonly used in sports medicine.
Stem Cell Treatments
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells collected from fat tissue or blood. Stem cells have the potential to transform into specialized cells when placed in a particular area of the body. For this reason, stem cells are used in sports medicine to treat injuries in which muscle, ligament or bone degeneration are present. Doctors theorize that the stem cells can lead to regeneration and repair to the damaged area. In fact, stems cells have shown promise in reducing or eliminating chronic pain in many types of degenerative sports injuries.
Using a sample of the patient’s own blood, plasma and platelets are separated and reinjected into the treatment area. The growth factors present in the plasma and the increased concentration of platelets (responsible for clotting) are thought to promote healing and natural reduction of inflammation. For this reason, PRP injections are most often used on soft tissue injuries and where tendonitis and degeneration of joints have occurred. When PRP injections are used, often combined with stem cell treatments, surgery can sometimes be avoided for degenerative conditions. This is possible because, when treated early with regenerative medicine, the degeneration is stopped. Irreparable damage needing surgery to repair is avoided.
Inflammation is one of the body’s responses to injury and disease. It works by increasing blood flow and the presence of other types of cells that repair the damage. Usually, we are concerned with reducing inflammation to reduce pain. However, there are circumstances in which it is beneficial to induce inflammation to speed healing or to allow an injury to heal more fully. Prolotherapy uses an injection of an irritant to the affected area to temporarily induce inflammation. Prolotherapy is also often combined with PRP or stem cells to further promote healing. In this manner, injuries can heal more completely in a shorter amount of time.
The potential to promote healing naturally with shorter recovery times means that regenerative medicine is becoming more mainstream in high-performance and recreational sports medicine. If you suffer from chronic injuries caused by repetitive stress, overuse or sports trauma, consult a regenerative medicine clinic to determine if one of these treatments could work for you.