While attending a conference on regenerative medicine treatments in Los Angeles recently, I was acutely aware of how fast this field is now moving. Medicine in general tends to evolve fairly quickly, but every so often a field undergoes a radical change and starts moving even faster in that direction. Typically this involves a small but growing number of physicians in a specific field who have a common interest and sharing ideas. The physicians involved make up a small part of their respective fields, but as word spreads of their progress, other physicians begin to get on board. The results can seem jagged at times, but are exciting in how far they are able to leap and advance the understanding of a disease process and treatments. This is the current climate in the world of regenerative musculoskeletal/orthopedic treatments.
After a few tentative steps, regenerative treatments for arthritis and tendinitis are starting to leap forward. We are starting to understand when and which treatments are most appropriately used. The interaction of nutrition, exercise, and hormones is beginning to be revealed and will actively change how we try to maximize patient outcomes. Best practices are being discussed regarding adjuvant treatments that can further help stem cells to repair cartilage and what additional medications should be avoided which are toxic to stem cells, cartilage and tendons. We’re better and more knowledgeable now than we ever have been in this field. And yet change is happening so fast that within a few months our understanding will be significantly better.
It’s hard to say how far this new field in medicine continues to explode forward. The science is good. The lower risk nature of the treatments compared to pain medications, steroid injections, and surgery is a key factor as well. Patient outcomes are encouraging. How much further we advance is impossible to predict. But running down this rabbit hole at this time is great for medicine and great for our patients.