Regenerative medicine is a collection of practices that results in replacing or reengineering human tissues in order to promote tissue regeneration. There are many types of regenerative medicine, including stem cell therapy, platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP) and shockwave therapy. These types of treatment use the body’s own natural means for repairing and restoring lost or damaged tissue, which leads to true healing of an injury or disease, not just treatment of the pain or other symptoms.
What is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative medicine includes several methods for growing new tissue to replace damaged tissue. Regenerative techniques can restore lost or damaged bones and cartilage, as well as soft tissues like the skin, tendons, and ligaments. For instance, stem cell therapies use a type of cell naturally produced by the body. Stem cells are like “blank slate cells” that can be triggered to grow into other types of cells, such as skin, bone, or muscle.
Podiatrists can also use PRP or platelet rich plasma therapy, which is especially helpful in healing injuries of the ligaments. PRP can be used instead of surgery or after surgery (depending on the extent and type of injury) to speed the healing process. It can also be combined with stem cell therapy techniques in some cases.
Another type of regenerative medicine is called shockwave therapy. This treatment uses shockwaves to promote inflammation in a certain part of the body. The inflammation causes an increase in blood flow to the area, which triggers the body to promote healing. Shockwave therapy is often successful when other types of treatments have failed to produce healing.
How does Regenerative Medicine Work?
Stem cell therapy, PRP and shockwave therapy are minimally invasive and can prevent the need for the patient to undergo foot or ankle surgery. Pain is kept at the absolute minimum through the use of numbing injections. Patients recover from these non-invasive procedures more quickly than from most types of surgery, and regenerative medicine can help heal conditions that have failed to respond to other treatments.
During stem cell therapy, stem cells are placed onto the injured or diseased area of the foot or ankle. These cells then change into the types of cells needed for regeneration, such as skin, bone, tissue, tendons, or ligaments.
In PRP, the doctor draws some of the patient’s blood, processes it to separate the white blood cells and platelets from red blood cells and plasma, and injects the wounded site with the white blood cells and plasma. This can sometimes eliminate the need for surgery or aid a patient in recovering quicker from surgery, while reducing pain.
In shockwave therapy, doctors use special equipment to administer waves of electromagnetism to the affected area. There is a short recovery period associated with shockwave therapy, and the technique takes time to improve the condition. However, the results are permanent, so there is no need to undergo the treatment repeatedly.
What Conditions are Treated?
Regenerative therapies are useful for treating many types of injuries and diseases of the feet and ankles. Ulcers of the feet caused by diabetes, as well as acute or chronic foot wounds can be alleviated through regenerative therapies. Bone regeneration can be used to treat subtalar arthritis and osteoarthritis. Soft tissue injuries like torn tendons or ligaments, and Achilles tendonitis can often be reversed. Regenerative therapies are also useful for conditions like plantar fasciitis, tarsal tunnel syndrome, bunions, and instability of the ankles.