Physical Rehabilitation/Therapy Finds a New Ally

August 1, 2023
Physical RehabilitationPhysical TherapyRegenerative Medicine
by Kolton Opdahl

Rehabilitation and healing have a new teammate. Regenerative procedures such as stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma injections are supporting rehabilitation and healing. These procedures are strengthening the relationship between orthopedics, rehabilitation medicine, and physical therapy. All of which serve the same patient population.

physical rehabilitation
Shot of a friendly physiotherapist treating his mature patient in a rehabilitation center

Today we would like to introduce 4 ways that physical therapists can learn about the growing partnership between physical therapy and regenerative medicine:

1. Human Tissue Responds to Support

At its core, the combination of regenerative medicine and rehabilitation involves utilizing various chemical biologics such as stem cell therapy to renew damaged human tissue. Experts in rehabilitation medicine and physical therapy are exploring the ways in which cells detect and react to physical stimuli and translate them into biochemical signals that result in specific cellular responses. This mechanism is referred to as mechanotransduction.

2. Patients Seeking Alternatives to Surgery

Many patients opt for regenerative procedures and subsequent physical therapy as a substitute for joint replacement surgery. This is in order to manage issues such as joint pain and osteoarthritis. The incidence of orthopedic diseases is increasing, it is expected that the demand for regenerative medicine will also rise. The population aged 65 and over in the United States is nearly 50 million, representing about 15.2% of the population. Musculoskeletal conditions in general result in costs of $240 billion for patients and the US healthcare system annually, which is equivalent to approximately 2.9% of the total GDP.

3. Investment in Regenerative Medicine and Physical Rehabilitation is Growing

A recent report by Global Market Insights Inc. predicts that patient demand for regenerative medicine and therapies for musculoskeletal conditions will increase by 19.1% by 2027. The report also estimates that the entire regenerative medicine and therapy market will be valued at $125 billion by 2027. In October 2020, the Canadian government pledged over $20 million to support advancements in regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy.

4. Regenerative Medicine is a Complex and Relatively New Field

Regenerative medicine, which includes stem cell therapy and tissue engineering, is a promising approach for developing complex biological therapies. However, similar to the challenges posed by donor organ status and host immune barriers in organ transplants, donor and host factors also present obstacles for regenerative medicine. While there have been positive advancements in the survival and function of hematopoietic stem cells in bone marrow transplants and epidermal stem cells in skin grafts, many aspects of regenerative medicine are still in the research stage. According to an article in The Scientist, a magazine that focuses on cell and molecular biology, stem cell therapies and tissue engineering are nearing the stage of being widely used in medicine. The article notes that an increasing number of scientists, clinicians, and physical therapists are adopting an interdisciplinary approach to rehabilitation by combining exercise with technologies that regenerate bone, muscle, cartilage, ligaments, nerves, and other tissues.

Regenerative medicine and the field of physical rehabilitation is only going to continue to grow into a tighter knit community. Here are some additional resources about the two fields:

If you are a physical therapist and want to learn more about how you can incorporate physical therapy treatment regimes for regenerative medicine patients into you

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