Our shoulders are made up of tendons and muscles that work with a highly mobile joint. This area of the body can easily become injured while playing sports or engaging in a work activity that requires raising your arms over your head again and again. Rotator cuff injuries also become more likely as we get older and cartilage and other tissue breaks down.
When other treatments fail, the conventional treatment for rotator cuff injuries has been surgery. While surgery is often effective, healing can sideline rotator cuff injury sufferers for weeks or months at a time. Regenerative medicine offers treatments that studies currently show may have lasting relief delaying or removing the need to resort to surgery.
What is the rotator cuff?
Your shoulder joint includes four muscles that begin at the shoulder blade and connect to the humerus, the large bone in your upper arm. The rotator cuff stabilizes the area and allows the bones around the shoulder joint to move. This area can be very prone to injury because of the amount of mobility the joint has paired with the amount of stress that it is subjected to. While rotator cuff injuries can happen in young individuals, the risk of them increases significantly with age as joints become less mobile and cartilage weakens.
When is treatment needed?
Rotator cuff injuries come in a number of forms. Some people experience repetitive stress injuries due to leisure activities or work. Painters, carpenters and those who play tennis or baseball are especially vulnerable to these sorts of injuries. While rotator cuff injuries are most common in people who participate in sports, they can affect anyone of any age and at any activity level.
The simplest rotator cuff injuries can involve inflammation due to overuse of the joint. Tendinitis in the area can cause soreness, weakness and a reduction in mobility.
In some cases, an acute injury will lead to a rotator cuff tear. These injuries are characterized by sharp pain and difficulty moving the shoulder. Acute injuries should be treated right away in order to minimize the chances of long-term damage to the area.
Most rotator cuff injuries are characterized by a dull ache deep within the shoulder. The pain and discomfort may make sleep difficult, particularly if you roll onto the shoulder that is affected by the injury. Reaching behind your back or engaging in activities like combing your hair may be difficult. You may also experience weakness in the affected arm.
Depending on the degree of injury, you may get better with rest and physical therapy. In cases of severe injuries, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace tendons.
It is recommended that you seek treatment if symptoms persist or if you find that your injury severely impacts your ability to engage in your everyday activities. Any sudden and severe symptoms should be looked at right away.
Doctors and researchers have studied alternatives to surgery for some time. In the past, those who did not have surgery risked thickening of the connective tissue around the joint, resulting in frozen shoulder. This condition would lead to permanent reductions in mobility as well as chronic pain. People with rotator cuff injuries that were not corrected would also find themselves at a risk of bone spurs around the affected joint.
It’s important to remember while surgery may be necessary in some acute cases, other incidents of rotator cuff injuries could benefit from less invasive measures such as regenerative medicine.
What regenerative medicine treatment works?
Regenerative medicine is an umbrella term for a range of therapies that work with the body’s own healing abilities. Studies show these therapies utilize allographic cells, growth factors and other substances that can be used by the body to accelerate healing. When they are delivered directly to an injured or damaged area, they can assist the body by aiding in and promoting healing.
Research in the field that would become regenerative medicine first started in the 1960s, with trials in skin grafting, the transplant of healthy skin tissue from one area of the body into an area that had been damaged due to burns, injury or infection. By the 1970s, the first skin successful skin graft had been accomplished. This was followed quickly by research into other areas. Bone marrow transplants allowed patients with leukemia to regain their ability to make healthy platelets. The discovery of stem cells, undifferentiated cells that could become whatever tissue the body needed, allowed doctors to provide healing care to individuals who may otherwise have never seen a full recovery from injuries or degenerative conditions.
How does platelet rich plasma help with rotator cuff repairs?
The platelets in our blood are rich in growth factor, which can aid in healing. Researchers have found that introducing PRP to an injured area can increase aid in increases collagen production in the area and other factors needed to promote the healing of the injury.
A study compared PRP to corticosteroid treatment and showed that patients who received PRP had a greater range of motion and less pain three months after their procedures. Additionally, in studies, people who were treated with PRP experienced a 93% reducing in pain two years after their procedures.
PRP is an especially appealing therapy because the risks are far lower than those associated with surgery. You are not subject to healing times from incisions or the increased risk of infection. Because PRP comes from your own tissue, you have a low risk of side effects or rejection of the tissue.
These treatments have been shown to be highly effective. PRP treatments can provide the lasting relief that you need without having to resort to surgical procedures.
We believe that you do not have to live in pain. At our clinic, we incorporate a wide array of cutting-edge treatments to give you the best possible care. Have you been referred for a rotator cuff injury? Get in touch. We can discuss your options and help create the best possible treatment plan for you.