The Achilles tendon is one of the longer tendons in your body, stretching from the bones of your heel to your calf muscles. It is a relatively thick, springy band of tissue at the back of your ankle and above your heel. It allows you to extend your foot and point your toes to the floor.
Unfortunately, it’s a commonly injured tendon. Many Achilles tendon injuries are caused by tendinitis, in which the tendon becomes swollen and painful. In a severe Achilles tendon injury, too much force on the tendon can cause it to tear partially or rupture completely.
As debilitating as they can be, the good news is that minor to moderate Achilles tendon injuries should heal on their own. You just need to give them time. Conventional conservative treatment including rest, ice compression and judicious use of NSAIDs can be helpful early in the course of rehabilitation. In the middle phases, a proper biomechanical evaluation, strengthening and flexibility program, and review of training/activity techniques and footwear should also occur.
What happens if pain continues despite optimal conservative treatment rehabilitation? Can regenerative treatments help? PRP, or Platelet Rich Plasma is made by extracting and concentrating the platelets in a patient’s blood, and is becoming a more widely used treatment. Platelets contain healing growth factors that increase the body’s natural ability to repair itself. The platelets have a stimulating effect on the stem cells within the damaged area and since stem cells play a key role in repairing damaged tissue, anything which causes the stem cells to work harder promotes better healing in areas that have not been able to repair themselves.
The new study took samples from 20 patients whose ruptured Achilles tendons had been treated with PRP, and 20 patients who were treated with a placebo, six weeks after treatment. The samples were taken from the healing area of the tendon. The samples were imbedded in paraffin and stained to examine healing markers. The results were that PRP improved healing by promoting better collagen I deposition, decreased cellularity, less vascularity, and greater concentration of glycosaminoglycan when compared with control samples, all of which simply means better healing was accomplished.
What does this mean for patients? This study, and others like it, continue to show that regenerative therapies such as PRP, stem cells, and platelet lysate can have powerful tissue healing effects. If you’re feeling frustrated, stuck, or stymied by a poorly healing tendon or soft tissue injury, then we might be able to help. Columbia Pain Management, PC is Oregon’s leading Regenexx treatment provider. Call us today at 541-386-9500.