When the human body becomes injured, the body’s natural response is to heal itself. However, the healing process is not always perfect. For athletes, even a small imperfection in the healing process can mean big trouble. An injury that doesn’t heal properly can keep an athlete from performing at their best or, in some cases, prevent them from playing altogether.
This is where orthobiologics come in. The cornerstone of a field called regenerative medicine, orthobiologics are substances that help to promote your body's natural processes that heal orthopedic tissues and improve the function of injured tissue. This ability to stimulate healing makes orthobiologics an exciting option in sports medicine for helping athletes recover from injury and get back to performing at their peak.
At Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates (GPOA), our team of specialists is experienced in using orthobiologics to treat a wide range of injuries, including tendinopathies, ligament sprains and tears, and muscle strains. We're passionate about helping our athlete patients understand regenerative medicine and all the ways its own tissue repair effects can help them return to full function.
Here are some of the most important things for athletes to know about orthobiologics:
What is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative medicine is a field of medicine that focuses on the regeneration of tissues and organs using biologic therapy. In other words, it's using the body's own, naturally-derived repair cells and tissues to stimulate its natural healing process. This is in contrast to traditional medicine, which often relies on medications or surgery to treat conditions.
Growth factors, cytokines, and exosomes are all examples of regenerative medicine cell therapy that can be used to promote healing. Orthobiologics is a type of regenerative medicine that specifically uses these therapies to treat orthopedic conditions, such as injured muscles and tendons.
What is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)?
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a concentration of platelets and growth factors that are derived from your own blood. Platelets are cells in your blood that are essential for clotting and wound healing. These platelets produce growth factors, which are signaling proteins. These substances exist to stimulate your body's healing process.
PRP is created by taking a small sample of your blood and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate out the platelets. The concentrated platelets are then injected into the injured area, where it can jumpstart the healing process.
How Do PRP Injections Work?
Wondering what to expect from a PRP injection? Here's how it works at GPOA:
- The first step is to have a blood draw so that your doctor can create the PRP solution out of natural substances from your own body.
- Then, the sample is placed in a centrifuge, which spins it to separate the PRP that is rich in growth factors from the rest of your blood.
- Once the PRP is ready, your doctor will use ultrasound guidance to inject it into the injured area.
- The PRP will be precisely injected into the injured tissue using a very fine needle.
You may feel a brief sting as the needle enters the skin, but the injection itself is relatively painless. The injection itself only takes a few minutes, and you can expect to have some soreness and bruising at the injection site afterward. Otherwise, there are no side effects from PRP injections.
Why Choose Orthobiologic Therapy?
Orthobiologics offer a number of advantages over traditional treatments like pain medication or surgery. First, they're non-invasive, so there's no risk of infection or complications as there are in more invasive orthopedic surgeries. These less invasive injections also stimulate your body's own healing process, which can lead to more long-lasting results.
Additionally, orthobiologics can be used to treat a wide range of injuries and conditions (like a massive rotator cuff tear) whereas invasive orthopedic surgeries are often only an option for more severe injuries.
How Regenerative Medicine Helps Athletes
PRP Treats a Wide Range of Sports Injuries
Athletes are constantly putting their bodies under stress, which can lead to a variety of injuries. Orthobiologics can be used to treat many of these injuries, including:
- Tendinopathies: A tendinopathy is an overuse injury that occurs when the tendons become damaged from repetitive stress. These injuries, which include conditions like tennis elbow and rotator cuff tears, commonly affect athletes, causing pain, stiffness, and weakness. PRP injections can be used to treat tendinopathies by reducing inflammation and stimulating the repair of damaged tissue.
- Muscle strains: A muscle strain is a common type of sports injury that occurs when the muscle fibers are stretched or torn. Symptoms of torn tissue include pain, muscle spasms, and cramping. The tissue repair effects of PRP can help accelerate the healing of muscle strains by reducing inflammation and promoting the growth of new muscle tissue.
- Ligament sprains: A ligament sprain is an injury to the ligaments, which are the tissues that connect bones to each other. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and instability in the joint. PRP can be used to treat ligament sprains by reducing inflammation and stimulating your body's natural healing process.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is a condition that causes pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the joints. It can be caused by wear and tear on the joints from overuse or age, which is common in lifelong athletes. PRP can help relieve arthritis pain by reducing inflammation and stimulating the repair of damaged joint tissue.
PRP Augments Physical Therapy
While PRP injections can be used to treat a wide range of injuries, they're often combined with physical therapy for the best results. Physical therapy helps you regain strength and flexibility after an injury, and adding PRP to your treatment plan can help speed up the healing process so you can get back to your sport as soon as possible.
PRP Offers Pain Management Without Excessive Medications
Athletes often have to take pain medication to manage their injuries and help them stay in the game. However, these medications can have a number of side effects, including stomach ulcers, kidney damage, and liver damage. Orthobiologics offer a safer alternative that allows your doctor to prescribe fewer (if any) pain medications.
PRP Can Accelerate Recovery Time
No one wants to be sidelined with an injury, but unfortunately, it's a risk all athletes face. Fortunately, orthobiologics can help you heal faster so you can get back in the game sooner. By reducing inflammation and stimulating your body's natural healing process, PRP can help you recover from your injury more quickly.
Visit the Top Regenerative Medicine Specialist Near You
Multiple research studies suggest that regenerative medical treatment is an exciting alternative to orthopedic surgery for many patients, including athletes. That's why the leading names in sports medicine are turning to regenerative therapies like PRP to help their patients get back in the game quickly and with confidence.
If you're looking for an orthobiologic treatment option, the providers at Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates (GPOA) can help. We offer PRP and other regenerative medicine treatments to patients in the Pittsburgh area.
Ready to get started with the best regenerative medicine Pittsburgh has to offer? Schedule your first appointment at GPOA today.