Amniotic Fluid Injections, An Introduction
Say NO to Pain and NO to Steroids
When we talk about pain management, most people immediately think of oral medications, topical creams, heating pads, you name it. Before going so far as to consider surgery, most of us would consider getting some sort of injection to numb the pain or control inflammation. Yes, I’m talking about corticosteroid injections. But did you know that these injections degrade the surrounding tissue, potentially making the problem come back worse than it was before?
To solve this problem, scientists and doctors have turned to the wonderful, life-giving abilities of our world’s mothers and tested and validated the use of amniotic fluid injections to control pain, reduce inflammation, and harness your body’s natural healing abilities. Mainstreamed in the orthopedic community, now the San Francisco Bay Area has a podiatrist who offers this service to her patients as well. This is the first in a series of articles describing amniotic fluid injections as offered in our practice.
What is Amniotic Fluid Injection?
The first thing people think of when they hear the word “amniotic” is the amniotic sac that a baby is carried in during pregnancy. This is half the story. The medical definition of an amniotic fluid injection is that of an “acellular allograft, FDA approved for homologous use to supplement the recipient's tissue”, approved for payment by Medicare in 2018. The translation: it’s a transplant of fluid. So a natural question arises. Why would you want to transplant someone else’s amniotic fluid into your body?
Let’s get down to the building blocks of what we’re talking about. Amniotic fluid contains a mix of growth factors, collagens, cytokines and elastines that create an extracellular matrix which supports healing. When focusing specifically on growth factors, those contained in amniotic fluid assist the body in tissue repair, reducing pain, stimulating regeneration, and in the reconstruction of injured tissue. These beneficial compounds float around in the amniotic fluid as a byproduct of the rich environment required to grow a baby in the womb.
These growth factors are incredibly important because they are the ones responsible for telling your cells to “grow”, divide, reproduce, and continue their life cycle. As the cell’s life cycle slows down or stops, we get tissue death and aging. It’s a good idea to have a healthy amount of growth factors affecting a wide range of body parts such as platelet derived growth factors, epidermal growth factors, transforming growth factors, insulin-like growth factors, hepatocyte growth factors and fibroblast growth factors, all of which are contained in amniotic fluid.
What Does An Amniotic Fluid Injection Do?
Amniotic fluid injection, as a therapy, is included in the body of knowledge known as regenerative medicine. For example, osteoarthritis is a very common joint disease and is characterized by degeneration and breakdown in the cartilage. Prolonged degradation of the joint tissue makes the problem and the symptoms worse. Most current therapies only mask the symptoms rather than treat the disease itself, making the pain go away without solving the underlying cause.
Regenerative medicine is proving to be a key component in the successful treatment of a condition like osteoarthritis because it targets the disease, not the symptoms. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. As incidents of diabetes and osteoarthritis increase in the country, regenerative medicine is experiencing explosive growth due to the success and positive experience patients are having with it. We couldn’t NOT offer it.
So What Does An Amniotic Fluid Injection ACTUALLY Do?
Going into the details of exactly how the fluid helps treat patient issues does not belong in this article. It would be overloaded with medical terminology and too long for busy people to read. Instead, here’s what matters:
1. It stimulates the body's own healing components within the blood to help rebuild and regenerate new healthy tissue by promoting and releasing natural regenerative growth factors.
2. It stimulates cellular differentiation and as such promotes new tissue growth.
3. It inhibits scarring by modulating and promoting tissue regeneration.
4. It regulates inflammation by limiting the “expression of inflammatory cytokines and containing hyaluronic acid that entraps inflammatory cells”.
5. It’s non-immunogenic by not containing the antigen that alerts the body to the presence of a foreign substance, which is what’s happening when you have a fever or swelling. This reduces your body’s need to fight it off.
6. It’s anti-microbial by containing certain beneficial peptides and by being impermeable to many bacterial strains.
7. It acts as a lubricant through the high concentration of hyaluronic acid, which is what helps our tissues retain water (like the inside of our eyelids).
8. It's an alternative to joint replacement or joint fusion surgery by improving joint, tendon and ligament function.
9. It reduces pain by reducing inflammation.
Who Should Get An Amniotic Fluid Injection?
Prime candidates for an injection are those who want lasting relief without negative side effects associated with other forms of treatment. Must be able to handle the discomfort of a needle injection. Here’s a non-exhaustive list and how to know if you should come in:
1. Anybody with joint, tendon, or ligament pain in the foot, ankle or leg.
2. Anybody who has had surgery or injury to the foot and ankle and currently struggles with excessive scarring or has residual pain, unresponsive to other treatments.
3. Anybody who has neuroma, plantar nerve pain or ankle nerve impingement.
This is just a fraction of the benefits associated with amniotic fluid injections. At Magdalena Blasko, DPM, Inc., this is one of the many cutting edge technologies that we are implementing every day to serve our patients better. If you’re interested in this potentially life-changing option, give us a call or schedule an appointment online to see if this is right for you. Be sure to check back next week as we cover what to expect when coming into the office as part of our Amniotic Fluid Injections series.