According to a 2016 report published by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, half of all Americans suffer from some type of musculoskeletal condition, with the majority being treated for joint pain.
Historically, severe joint pain has been treated with oral medications, corticosteroids, physical therapy, or surgery. However, growing evidence over the last few years has begun to support the benefits of other minimally invasive options.
Somewhere between people who receive steroid injections and people who have surgery are those patients that may be excellent candidates for regenerative therapies. At the most basic level, regenerative medicine accelerates the regeneration of the body’s natural tissues, such as a tendon or cartilage. Regenerative therapies often promote other pain relief such as regulation of inflammation and desensitization of local nerve tissue. Re-growing native tissue, decreasing inflammation, and desensitizing local nerve tissue ultimately alleviates pain and increases function. Many studies are revealing these benefits are expected to last at least 1-2 years.
Mark Shoreman, M.D., is a physician of physical medicine and rehabilitation and the medical director of the Rehabilitation Medicine Department at Kettering Health Network’s Sycamore Medical Center.
He suggests the field of regenerative medicine is a novel addition to the well-established field of orthopedics, which offers viable non-operative treatment options for a number of musculoskeletal conditions.
“Many patients are excellent candidates for regenerative procedures,” he explained. “These options, in particular for the knee and shoulder, have been shown to have outcomes that are far superior to corticosteroid injections, viscosupplementation, which is a gel-like fluid injection that acts as a lubricant, or other standard care interventions.”
Many of these groundbreaking, minimally invasive procedures are based on administering growth factors from your own body. For example, platelet rich plasma (PRP) is obtained from a simple blood draw, and stem cell concentrate comes from your own bone marrow. A process called “centrifugation” is used to separate and concentrate the platelets and other vital regenerative factors from the blood or marrow so the doctor can inject the highly concentrated material directly into the affected areas.
Some of the more common injuries that can be treated with this process include tendinitis, osteoarthritis, bursitis, plantar fasciitis, and ligament injuries, to name a few. Because these types of injuries are so common in their work, athletes typically opt for regenerative therapies.
It is important to note, however, that not all insurance providers will cover these newer procedures, which sometimes are labeled as experimental. “While there may be some out-of-pocket expense, the costs can be very reasonable, even more so than many insurance-covered procedures,” Dr. Shoreman said.
The out-of-pocket costs on a surgical procedure, for example, could far outweigh the self-pay aspects of these procedures. Patients interested in these treatments should talk with their doctor and insurance provider to determine what may be covered and how much personal expense might be involved.
There are many options available for treating joint pain, so consult a physician to determine what is best for your specific condition.
“Ultimately, we want our patients to be well informed about all of their available treatment options,” he said. “It’s important to have a discussion with a surgical specialist, as well as someone well-versed in regenerative medicine in order to make a well-educated decision regarding your musculoskeletal care.”
To learn more about nonsurgical treatment options for joint pain management, call 1-844-228-MOVE (6683) or visit ketteringhealth.org/ortho.