When joints are injured, the tissue that is commonly damaged is what we call, “white” tissue. White tissue has a poor blood supply which compromises healing ability after injury. Structures made up of white tissue include cartilage, discs, labrum, ligaments, meniscus and tendons. Muscles, on the other hand, are red, and have a great blood supply and repair more easily. Many pain treatments focus on red tissue (muscles), such as physical therapy, and the white tissues are traditionally subjected to treatments that perpetuate the cycle of degeneration and lead to osteoarthritis, such as cortisone injections and arthroscopy.
Ligaments are an especially important white tissue component and key to maintaining the health of the entire joint. They connect bone to bone and are full of free nerve endings. Ligament injuries are some of the most common causes of musculoskeletal pain, and predispose the joint to further injury because they change the whole dynamic of the joint. For example, a ligament injury to the knee may give rise to jumper’s knee, meniscal tears, chondromalacia patella, bone spurs and osteoarthritis. Why would a ligament injury cause other problems in the joint? Ligament injury creates a disharmony between the soft tissue, muscles and bony structures which interferes with the stability of the joint, leading to destructive joint motion. If the ligaments are left untreated, the body will try to stabilize the joint through joint swelling or overuse of the muscles, causing spasms. Eventually, this leads to bone spur formation, degenerative arthritis, and/or nerve compression.
The Regenerative Medicine approach focuses repair of the damaged ligaments as well as the resultant damage to cartilage or other tissue. This can involve Prolotherapy (Regenerative Injection Therapy) along with an exercise program to nourish the joint while the ligaments repair, and effectively stopping the cycle of pain.