Regenerative Medicine for Rotator Cuff Injuries

Apr 15, 2021Blog Post, PRP, PRP Therapy


Are you dealing with a painful rotator cuff? If so, then you may be suffering as a result of:

  • A sudden injury.
  • Progressive wear and tear.
  • Repetitive overhead movements.
  • Too much heavy lifting.
  • Pushing too hard with the arms when standing up from a seated position/

Regardless of how the injury may have occurred, chances are good that the condition is incredibly painful.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injury

An injury or tear to the rotator cuff causes pain in the shoulder and upper arm. Typically, the injury is most painful when you reach out or up, and it may be exacerbated if you twist your arm while lifting it. This means that everyday tasks like combing your hair or putting your arm into a sleeve may be especially painful.

Rotator cuff injuries further may make sleep difficult as the pain becomes a dull, persistent ache. After suffering pain throughout the day and being unable to sleep at night, people with rotator cuff injuries are definitely looking for lasting relief.

Are Surgery and Other Treatments Available?

If you visit a traditional doctor, it is likely that a corticosteroid injection or surgery will be suggested. The doctor will point out that the injury may persist for weeks, months, or even years. In fact, the injury actually can get worse if it is not treated.

Often referred to as cortisone shots, corticosteroid injections typically are injected into problem joints. They may treat conditions like bursitis, tendinitis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and others. However, because of the potential risks and side effects, only a limited number of such injections are available to individual patients.

Some of the risks associated with cortisone shots include:

  • Joint infections
  • Damage to cartilage
  • Nerve damage
  • Weakening of the tendon
  • Thinning or death of the nearby bone.

Clearly, cortisone shots are only a short-term solution. This means that the doctor may eventually recommend surgery as a more permanent treatment.

Unfortunately, surgery carries its own risks. Many patients learn that there is a high rate of failure for rotator cuff surgeries after they have had a series of cortisone injections. This means that these patients undergo a risky surgery and a lengthy recovery period only to discover that their rotator cuff injury hasn’t actually been repaired.

According to one scientific study, “the administration of two or more injections was associated with a substantially increased risk of subsequent revision rotator cuff surgery.” This means that people who have had more than two cortisone shots have a significantly higher risk of failure of their surgery.

Even patients who have not had multiple cortisone shots are subject to the failure of rotator cuff surgery. Factors such as the tension on the repair, the quality of the tendon, the characteristics of the rotator cuff tear, bone quality, and tobacco use all can affect how successful the surgery is.

Whether the surgery is successful or not, patients who undergo this procedure are subject to a long period of recovery. Considerable pain is a constant companion, and patients may have to take powerful painkillers for an extended period of time. These prescription medications come with their own risks and potentially dangerous side effects. In the meantime, range of motion is extremely limited while many physical therapy sessions will be required to regain function and mobility.

The upshot is that surgery is risky, expensive, and painful. Is there a better option?

Consider Regenerative Medicine Options

Fortunately, patients who have injured rotator cuffs are not limited to only cortisone shots and surgery as treatment options. Platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP, is becoming increasingly popular because it is less invasive than surgery and far less risky than other treatment options.

In PRP treatments, the doctor withdraws some of the patient’s own blood. The blood is then processed in a lab using a centrifuge machine. After the blood is separated into its various components, technicians create a sample that is incredibly enriched with growth factors and platelets. Both of these components are critical for regenerating new, healthy cells. In fact, platelets are capable of helping to produce new collagen cells, fiber, cartilage, and blood vessels, all of which promote healing.

Once the platelet-rich plasma is prepared, the doctor injects it into the shoulder. The plasma improves the ability of the patient’s cells to regenerate. Moreover, blood flow to the area is significantly increased.

When compared to other treatment options, the recovery time associated with PRP treatments is substantially reduced. This is because PRP therapy encourages the growth of new blood vessels. Additionally, tendons have low vascularity, which makes it hard for them to heal. One of the main benefits of PRP treatments is that they promote the formation of new capillaries so that healing in tendons is far more efficient.

Regenerative medicine techniques like PRP also make recovery quicker by reducing inflammation. It’s important to understand that inflammation is a critical component of physical healing as it brings additional cells and growth factors to the injury. Nonetheless, inflammation further is responsible for symptoms like pain, tenderness, swelling, and impaired joint function. This means that while some inflammation can be a good thing, too much is a problem.

When inflammation is chronic, the formation of scar tissue is increased. While scar tissue consists of connective tissue, it is not as strong, functional, or flexible as the original connective tissue. Thus, because regenerative medicine techniques like PRP reduce chronic inflammation, less scar tissue is formed. This makes it more likely that total functionality of the tendon will be restored.

More Effective than Surgery

One of the best reasons to choose PRP treatments over surgery is that they are statistically more successful. This is especially true with regard to partial tears of the rotator cuff.

PRP treatments also are preferable to surgery because they are far less invasive. That means shorter recovery times, less tissue irritation, and better opportunities to make a full rehabilitation.

When you choose PRP therapy, you further benefit from undergoing a much shorter, less complicated procedure. PRP does not involve full anesthesia, making it far less expensive, time-consuming, and risky.

Avoid Rotator Cuff Surgery

Do you have a troubling and painful rotator cuff injury? Has your doctor advised that you undergo surgery to correct the problem?

If so, then you definitely need to know that alternative treatments are available. Platelet-rich plasma therapy has been in use since the 1970s to treat sports injuries and a variety of degenerative conditions. Once used mostly by professional athletes, PRP therapy has become much more accessible to ordinary people who are suffering from ordinary pain and discomfort like rotator cuff injuries.

If your doctor has recommended surgery to you, then you’ve probably been looking at the risks and possible outcomes of the surgery. You’ve probably read literature about the recovery time and the physical therapy appointments that will become a regular part of your life after the surgery.

Does it all sound overwhelming to you? If you’re looking for a safe, sensible, and effective alternative, then it’s time to learn more about platelet-rich plasma therapy.

Contact Integrative Physical Health

Whether you are dealing with lower back pain or a painful rotator cuff, give Integrative Physical Health a call today. Our medical professionals believe in treating the whole patient, and regenerative medicine is just one of the treatment options we provide.

If you have serious concerns about undergoing surgery to repair a rotator cuff tear, schedule an appointment with us to explore alternative treatment options. With far fewer risks, the less invasive approach of PRP may be precisely what’s needed to treat your rotator cuff.

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