When Karen came to us, the first thing I noticed was the connection between her and her husband. The second thing I noticed was how concerned they both were about the pain she was experiencing in her knees. Karen came to our clinic seeking answers after seeing many specialists without relief or a clear explanation of why her knees were bothering her so much. She was unable to exercise, which serves as a major stress reliever for her. She wanted to know why she was living in persistent pain and why she was experiencing constant swelling in both knees, which was limiting activities such as basic car driving or walking.
Karen‘s case is a good example of how the body sometimes doesn’t function properly. Her knees were getting swollen, but her MRIs did not reveal any major damage. When I spoke to her, she told me that up until this point no one had been able to figure out the cause of her problem. After a long discussion and review of her MRIs, I told her that a very comprehensive treatment of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), may be able to shift her body away from what was likely a chronic inflammatory state, and restore a healthy overall environment. We treated all the interconnecting structures, meniscus and ligaments as well as the joint itself, as the main pain generator was a bit of a mystery.
The body sends inflammation to areas of injury even for minor injuries. Now that Karen is doing well having almost no pain, she has returned to activities and is beginning to get back to her normal exercise program. In hindsight, we can see that her body had simply moved into a chronic inflammatory state trying to heal itself. Perhaps it was a small micro tear of a ligament or meniscus that set off this cascade, or even something she ate. The fact of the matter is that this platelet therapy was able to reset the body’s inflammatory process back to a healthy state.
This is an important aspect of Regenerative medicine. The body begins the process of shifting back to a healthy environment in whatever area is injured. Most people think of stem cells and PRP as re-growing tissue. To some extent this is true. However, the main effect is the modulation of our own immune system that can go haywire in many cases of disease and injury. The body is designed to be resilient against wear and tear. This resilience comes from the immune system which keeps the body healthy enough to get you to function despite advanced wear on the body. As we age, and the immune system begins to slow down or short circuit, sometimes problems occur.
Regenerative medicine still needs to be explored as we begin to better understand the body’s own processes of self-regulation. It may help many diseases that have been thought to have severe genetic components but may simply be basic malfunctioning of the immune system and cellular modulation of activity. Regenerative medicine offers a great benefit to people not only in an orthopedic setting but also in other settings where again, simply modulating the immune system around an area of disease may be the key answer to recovery.