Unfortunately we take the healing power of our body for granted until we are sick or falling apart from the passage of time. We have come to rely on medicines and surgery to fix everything. Yes the advances in medicine in the last hundred years have been fantastic but they still pale in comparison to the complexity and marvelous nature of our body’s own healing and self-regenerating capacity.
We are now on the cusp of changing this current paradigm. Isn’t it much better to take care of, fix, and hold onto the amazing body we already have been given? Isn’t it best to look inside us at our own fantastic repair and regenerative capabilities? There is hope in the emerging field of Regenerative Medicine. According to the National Institute of Health, “Regenerative medicine is the process of creating living, functional tissues to repair or replace tissue or organ function lost due to age, disease, damage, or congenital defects. This field holds the promise of regenerating damaged tissues and organs in the body by stimulating previously irreparable organs to heal themselves.” The most exciting and promising treatments for the future will be non-fetal or non-embryonic stem cells for growing new tissues and organs.
So what can Regenerative Medicine do for us now? We can use messengers that tell our own stem cells and regenerative cells to go to work. We have stem cells for almost ever tissue in our body, for example stem cells for skin, stem cells for bone and cartilage. The messengers that stimulate our own stem cells are in the form of growth factors and cytokines that are present on the platelets of our own blood. We can isolate them, concentrate them, and inject them under ultrasound guidance to where they are needed most. This Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) has been used for almost 3 decades in dentistry, cardiothoracic surgery, and orthopedics. Not all forms of PRP are alike and not all forms of PRP give great results. At Greco Medical Group (GMG) we use an advanced, purified, and proprietary form of PRP called Cytokine Rich Plasma (CRP). It is all-natural, made by you, for you. No drugs are needed.
Greco Medical Group uses CRP for arthritis, chronic pain, and sports injuries. But some of the best results with CRP are with knee pain treatment for Osteoarthritis (OA). OA of the knee is a progressive condition that wears away the smooth cartilage cushion in the joint. Like almost everything else in our body, the cartilage is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. Unfortunately in OA the cartilage is being broken down faster than it is being rebuilt. Early in the disease process, the OA patient may just describe their knees as feeling tight and stiff. As OA progresses, there is pain, inflammation, and destruction of the joint. As time goes on, they may only feel pain after excessive activity. Then the treatment is rest, ice, and acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is a very safe and effective medicine if taken correctly. As OA progresses the pain gets worse, more frequent, and occurs with less activity. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) such as over the counter Advil and Aleve or prescription drugs such as meloxicam are usually the next step. This is where it gets scary. Did you know that in 1998 The American Journal of Medicine stated: “Conservative calculations estimate that approximately 107,000 patients are hospitalized annually for non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-related gastrointestinal (GI) complications and at least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year among arthritis patients alone.”
Time and OA march on leading to more pain, more joint destruction, and consequently less mobility. At this point, OA patients are forced to cut back their activities and exercise. This downward spiral continues with weight gain, de-conditioning, and possibly diabetes. All of these can make OA worse. What’s next? The present standard of care is steroid and hyaluronic acid shots (Synvisc, Hyalgan, Orthovisc). Steroids are a temporary fix and can be harmful to the knee cartilage. Hyaluronic acid can help in the short term and in a limited number of people. Typically, narcotics are prescribed for pain management until the patient is ready for surgery or if they aren’t candidates for surgery. Narcotics can cause constipation, impaired mental status, impaired driving and addiction. The most important point about knee pain treatment for OA is that none of these treatments change the course of OA and eventually there is no other option but knee replacement surgery. Many things influence how fast this occurs such as body weight, family history of OA, diabetes, and prior surgery or trauma to the knee.
We believe now with the use of CRP we can change the course of Osteoarthritis. We can offer an alternative to knee replacement. Two goals for treating OA of the knee are to decrease or eliminate knee pain and maintain mobility. We don’t just mask the pain. We eliminate the pain by cooling down the inflammation and actually initiating and accelerating the healing process. About 90% of the patients that we treat with OA of the knees are successfully treated with CRP. The younger the patient and the earlier the stage of OA, the better the results with CRP, however, we have many patients in their 80’s who have done well. The ultimate goal is to avoid knee surgery and keep your own joints (hardware) by growing new cartilage. At GMG we believe we can accomplish all these goals with CRP treatments. Talk is cheap but all one has to do is listen to our patients. We have numerous patients who were told by their orthopedic knee specialist they needed knee replacement surgery because their knees were “bone-on-bone.” Five years later after using our CRP treatments these patients continue to be pain-free and active with their own knees. Even if we are just prolonging the time until surgery is needed, technology in regenerative medicine and prosthetic joints will probably advance tremendously in that time. We are already making great strides with fat transfers and bone marrow aspirations, which contain an abundance of stem cells. The FDA currently doesn’t allow true stem cell treatments in the United States but research continues and the future is very bright in Regenerative Medicine. At Greco Medical Group we aren’t sitting around watching and waiting for things to happen, we are making it happen.
“An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory.”
– E.F. Schumacher –