Injuries happen to almost everyone, but for some they can be far worse. For those with chronic pain, arthritis and a host of other ailments, it can mean a lifetime of discomfort. While many of those symptoms can be treated, it’s often with invasive surgery or only partially effective treatments like cortisone shots. Regenerative medicine offers an alternative to going under the knife, while achieving lasting results. Relievus, a pain management and neurology specialist practice, offers these treatments at both its Havertown and Philadelphia locations. Here, clinician Dr. Uplekh Purewal offers insight.
Q: What is regenerative medicine?
A: It’s a form of medicine that involves using the regenerative properties of the human body to help repair injuries or chronic, pathological conditions like arthritis over a period of time. We’re harvesting the body’s own abilities to heal itself.
Q: What conditions can it treat?
A: Meniscal injuries, partial tear of a tendon, arthritic conditions, low back pain. We’ve seen promising results with respect to low back injuries, disc tears, small disc bulges, small disc herniations. The arthritic conditions are really the ones that if patients aren’t at the end stage of the arthritic condition, will frequently see benefits.
Q: Who is the ideal candidate?
A: The ideal candidate is the most youthful and healthy patient, but if you’re someone who’s in their 40s, 50s or 60s and your still taking care of yourself—you’re not smoking, not drinking heavily, you’re exercising—you’re the ideal candidate.
Q: What’s the difference between PRP and stem cell treatment?
A: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is [achieved by] concentrating the blood down to the factors which will signal to help with the regenerative processes. Stem cells are cells that are resting around adipose tissue and are concentrated in bone marrow. There are different types of stem cells that can, with signals, help aid the healing process. When we take the bone marrow, concentrate it, and re-inject it into sites of injury, the stem cell can effect change.
Q: What takes place leading up to a procedure?
A: Patients would have a consult with a physician in our practice and we would go over their entire medical history, their social history, their general overall health. We would ask them about what conditions have been effecting them and we would review appropriate diagnostics and we would look to see what the condition is and why the person has the condition [to make sure] it looks like its something that can be met or improved with PRP and/or stem cells.
Q: What’s the process for treatment?
A: If it’s a PRP procedure, we would draw their blood, concentrate it, and then we would re-inject it to the area of injury. If it’s a stem cell procedure, stem cells are taken directly from bone marrow. We numb the area with local anesthetic before we do the procedure. Bone marrow is concentrated and then it’s placed back into the area of injury.
Q: How soon do patients see results?
A: In the vast majority of patients, you’ll see no immediate response. I do see some people who have significant results over a couple of weeks. The average person would expect to see results about three to six months after the procedure. It may be up to a year.
Q: What’s the benefit over surgery?
A: The major difference is that once something is cut open, it’s cut open. You’re not going back from that, whether it’s a minor surgical procedure or major. Regenerative medicine is an alternative to that. When you’re getting a surgical procedure, you’re relying on that surgeon, the surgical technique, the tools they’re using. The difference is we’re not cutting you open; we’re doing procedures that are advanced but they’re minimally invasive and we’re using the body to heal itself.
Q: What about cortisone injections?
A: The big difference between regenerative medicine and some of the other therapies out there with regards to cortisone injections is that over a period of time, cortisone injections have a number of side effects and we have to limit the number of injections—as helpful as they can be, they can also be harmful. If someone’s getting a lot of steroid injections into their knees or into their back they may actually be accelerating the degenerative process. Regenerative medicine injections, on the otherhand can help slow down this process and speed up healing.