What is Regenerative Medicine?
If you’re a sports fan, you may have noticed when a professional athlete sustains an injury, they often return to the roster in only a few weeks’ time. How is it possible that they are able to recover so quickly? Usually, their speedy recovery is credited to stem cell-based therapies.
Stem cell-based therapies are just one type of regenerative medicine. While it is likely the most well-known type, there is a wide spectrum of treatments and capabilities that fall under regenerative medicine.
In its most fundamental form, Regenerative Medicine uses the body’s capacity to heal itself and regenerate in an amplified way. The techniques used enable the body to heal much faster than it otherwise would on its own.
How Does the Body Heal Itself?
When a young child sustains an injury, it seems to heal overnight, whereas even small injuries can take a longer time to heal as an adult. That’s because children have a vast supply of stem cells present in their bodies. When an injury occurs, these stem cells mobilize and bring healing much faster.
As we age, the density of these stem cells lowers, which results in longer, slower recoveries. Often, one injury can linger longer than it should, which creates a domino effect of breakdowns along the mechanical chain. This breakdown can lead to further injuries or pain in unexpected areas.
How Does Regenerative Medicine Fit in With Traditional Healthcare?
With many types of injuries, inflammation is also present. Historically, healthcare has tried to treat inflammation because it is accompanied by pain, but pain and damage/repair are separate processes. So while some treatments like steroids, ice, and pain medications may reduce pain, they do not affect the damage or sometimes even make the damage worse.
Inflammation is actually the first stage of the healing process though and isn’t actually a negative thing as people perceive. Inflammation triggers the stem cells in the area to activate and recruit other cells to come into the area and start repairing the tissue. It comes with pain because inflammation also makes nerves more sensitive in order to generate awareness that repair is taking place. Chronic pain is actually chronic injury that has an obstacle preventing it from healing. So rather than just suppressing inflammation to reduce pain, a better solution would be to identify the obstacles and help your body clear them to heal the damage causing pain.
In regenerative medicine, we understand these crucial aspects of healing. Our goal is to understand the damage causing pain, the barriers to healing, and then find the right balance of inflammation to promote repair. Stem cells play a crucial role in this process. Optimizing the activity of stem cells in damaged body parts falls into three different categories.
First, there’s prolotherapy. Prolotherapy is essentially the use of medications to stimulate the inflammatory process. Then there’s PRP (platelet rich plasma), which is often what is used by athletes as we discussed in the beginning of this post. PRP uses various growth factors in your body to stimulate the movement and activity of stem cells into a specific area. The last category is to use your own stem cells from a variety of sources (e.g. bone marrow, fat cells, or embryonic tissue) and use them as growth supports for your own body’s tissue.
If you have any questions regarding regenerative medicine, please contact us today! We will answer all of your questions as soon as we can. If you are suffering from an injury, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment! We’d love to meet with you and help you figure out the best path to healing for your unique set of conditions.