Our feet and ankles are complex structures that contain a lot of important parts. Some of these parts come in the form of connective tissues, such as tendons and cartilage.
There are many ways these tissues can become injured or degenerate. Achilles tendinitis is a common example of a painful soft tissue problem, but plantar fasciitis and certain forms of arthritis can also affect the feet and ankles.
Stem cell therapy is one method for relieving pain and inflammation from such a condition, and has the added benefit of aiding restoration of damaged tissues.
What is Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cells can be thought of as being a lot like interns at a company. They do not have any specializations of their own at this point, but can quickly develop the skills necessary to do something specific. Stem cells can become bone cells, muscle cells, skin cells—anything in your body.
Stem cell therapy for foot and ankle injuries involves injecting materials from these cells into the site of damaged tissue.
Growth factors that naturally accompany stem cells encourage the repair and recovery of surrounding damaged cells.
A second substance in stem cell treatment, hyaluronic acid, provides lubrication to joints and tendons, helping to relieve pain and increase mobility.
Other helpful substances include naturally occurring agents that reduce inflammation, such as cytokines.
Is Stem Cell Therapy Safe and Ethical?
The term “stem cell” can carry some controversy, and there is sometimes very understandable concern over where these materials come from. However, please be assured that the stem cells used in this therapy do not come at the expense or detriment of any other life.
The stem cells in this form of therapy are amniotic stem cells derived from donated placenta. The gathering of this material comes immediately following a birth and does not affect the mother or child in any way. These materials would be otherwise discarded.
All donors of amniotic stem cells must undergo an extensive screening process before their material can be collected, and the material is then further tested for safety.
Also, by nature, the patient rejection rate of amniotic stem cell material is extremely low. A patient’s immune system is almost entirely unlikely to attack it.
Amniotic stem cells have been used in various fields, including plastic surgery and ophthalmology, for about two decades now, with great benefit. We have been seeing those benefits in the field of podiatry for the past several years, too.
What About Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy?
A similar–yet different–treatment option Dr. Spitz is proud to offer is our platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy.
If you are a sports fan, perhaps you have heard of this particular treatment. (It’s one that has become quite popular with professional and high-level athletes over the past several years.)
For the uninitiated, PRP therapy uses platelets to heal injuries. Platelets are blood cells that promote and enhance natural healing and growth functions in our bodies.
So, how does this work?
Basically, we withdraw a portion of your blood and put it into a centrifuge. As this machine spins around at a high speed, the platelets begin to separate from other components. The concentrated platelets–suspended in plasma (the liquid part of blood)–are then collected and injected back into your body.
This whole process releases valuable growth factors into the injury site that stimulate and increase the number of reparative cells your body produces. In doing so, PRP therapy can allow you to overcome an injury more quickly–while at the same time reducing the need for prescription pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Another exciting benefit of PRP therapy is that your body doesn’t react negatively or reject the injections. This can be attributed to the fact that the plasma and platelets come from your very own blood!
Again, this is a highly safe and effective process, and it’s something you might want considered as part of your treatment plan.