If you are suffering from a known knee meniscus tear get out your MRI report…
If you have a meniscus tear the radiologist probably used phases or words like located in the “White Zone” and/or “Red Zone” meniscus tears. The “Red Zone” refers to the outer edges of the meniscus and has a fair amount of blood vessel in it. Areas that have a good blood supply typically heal better than those areas without good blood flow. If the radiologist describes your tear as being in the “White Zone” that refers to the center of the meniscus which has a poor network of blood flow. White zone tears are often recommended to have surgery.
The red zone (good blood flow) is known to contain regenerative cells, (cells that stimulate stem cell activity) and those of us using Shockwave Therapies (Zimmer EnPuls, EPAT, Acoustic Wave Therapy, Gaines Wave), hypothesize that shockwave treatments to the knee can help stimulate migration of the regenerative cells in the red zone to the site of meniscal injury in the white zone. Shock wave practitioners know the meniscus is capable of healing tear defects that occur in the white zone (the area without circulation).
Shockwave Therapies (Zimmer EnPuls, EPAT, Storz, Acoustic Wave Therapy, Miracle Wave, Gaines Wave) is a non-invasive alternative to shots and surgical treatment. Shockwave therapy may act as a spark to mobilize the body’s own stem cells to facilitate healing.
Findings in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research demonstrate that articular cartilage and injuries to the meniscus mobilize an intrinsic progenitor cell population with strong reparative potential, even into the white zone area (2).
1 Matar HE, Dala-Ali B, Atkinson HD. Meniscal regeneration: a cause of persisting pain following total knee arthroplasty. Case reports in medicine. 2011;2011.
2 Seol D, Zhou C, Brouillette MJ, Song I, Yu Y, Choe HH, Lehman AD, Jang KW, Fredericks DC, Laughlin BJ, Martin JA. Characteristics of meniscus progenitor cells migrated from injured meniscus. Journal of Orthopaedic Research. 2016 Nov 1.
Research suggests the White Zone can heal
Can PIEZOWAVE Pulse Therapy and ENPULS Radial Shockwave Therapy regrow meniscus tissue? What about stem cell therapy and PRP? Is one more successful at treating meniscal damage? All of these treatments are very promising! So far I see stimulation of stem cells (either non-invasive therapy or injections) as promising for meniscus repair and regeneration.
- Everyone agrees that Meniscus injuries remain a significant challenge due to the poor healing potential of the inner avascular zone (the inner portion of the meniscus that lacks a blood supply).
- I use the non-invasive and less expensive EnPuls and PiezoWave therapy instead of PRP to achieve pain relief and attempt to halt the progression of meniscal damage. More time and research is required to see if this is the way to regenerate tissue.
- FACT: Regeneration of meniscus and cartilage is difficult to heal especially in the ‘white zone’ where there is a lack of blood vessels and therefore deprives the meniscus of healing nutrients and oxygen.
- FACT: Stem cell injections and PRP injection treatments are in the infancy stages of research. These treatment options are as controversial as surgery.
- New York Times, Dr. Gordon H. Guyatt, a professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario states: Meniscus surgery is expensive and has potential complications (British Medical Journal even agrees with this).
- FACT: I want patients to return to sport or leisure activity as fast as possible.
You probably have knee pain and then you got an MRI and the doctor said “You have a meniscus tear and you’ll need surgery”. Do you have other options? YES!
First off, let me tell you that research suggests the meniscus is always trying to heal itself. The length of time it takes to heal can depend on the location of the tear. The “Red Zone” part of the meniscus which is the outer edges, contain areas that have a blood supply and can receive oxygen and nutrients that help heal. This ‘Red Zone’ has a better opportunity than the “White Zone” which is more in the center of the meniscus to heal. The ‘White Zone’ does not have a well-organized blood supply which is required to bring oxygen and nutrients into damaged areas. If you are one of those people with a meniscus tear and your pain and dysfunction is not that great, meaning you can do most of the stuff you want to do, and you can live with the pain, I would recommend a trail of PiezoWave, EnPuls and laser. The research studies comparing people who had surgery and those who did not have surgery show that the outcomes are about the same after two years in those who did not go through a costly and invasive surgery! Acoustic Pulse Wave (PiezoWave) therapy and radial pulse therapy (EnPuls) is changing the healing pace – results of healing are quicker in the “White Zone” damaged tissue. I suspect it’s increasing the blood flow to these deeper tissues and improving the healing nutrient supply to the damaged ‘White Zone’ tissue and people feel better, faster.
Shock wave or radial pulse therapy (PiezoWave, EnPuls) is effective in “kick-starting” the healing process to treat degenerative disc disease. Radial (EnPuls) and acoustic (PiezoWave) pulse waves have been used for Achilles tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis, calf strains, and even cellulite. Pulse wave therapy is non-invasive and stronger than percussion treatments such as the Deep Muscle Stimulator (DMS). By stimulating the skin and muscles adjacent to the spine with pulse wave therapy we are doing two things 1) breaking up tight spasm and hard fibrotic tissue, 2) releasing the spasm allows the paraspinal muscles to be less dampened and work more efficiently again. In this way regeneration begins because the discs are indirectly treated and the discs show an increase in disc height.
Exercise is used along with the PiezoWave or EnPuls impulse treatment to address the problems of spinal ligament instability. The sooner you catch the degeneration, the better the results with pulse wave treatment and exercise. Stability exercise training has a protective effect on damaged discs. In the acute phase we may start with the pulse therapy and or laser to decrease the pain and inflammation. Dr. Tucker uses various isometric exercises in his practice. Clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction with these types of treatments is very high. We can use this model of therapy in the early treatment phase and in late stages of the degenerative process. “Earlier intervention in the disease process is more beneficial than later treatment of an already severely degenerated discs”, says Tucker.
“I think most people understand the repair process that the body naturally goes through after an injury but they do not understand how the body can also regenerate a degenerated discs”. These newer treatments (PiezoWave, EnPuls, and Lasers) are able to recover the mechanical properties of denatured discs, thereby providing a promising effective therapeutic modality.
Does shockwave therapy such as EnPuls and PiezoWave stimulate stem cells in inhibiting disc degeneration and disc herniation? The research and my clinical experience suggest the answer is ‘Yes’. Stem cells can be injected into the area of local damage but this is invasive and costly. We are using EnPuls and PiezoWave pulse therapy and laser (all non-invasive) to stimulate stem cells to interact with the local stem cells and immune system cells to achieve successful disc pain relief and tissue regeneration.
The current theory is that the combination of these non-invasive deep tissue treatments stimulates stem cells that are able to bring more oxygen to the damaged disc and accelerate healing by reversing the low-oxygen (degenerative or dying) environment in the spine. Also inflammation comes in many forms. To keep it simple one type is healing and another type is non-healing inflammation. Research supports stem cells are able to reduce or prevent herniation by suppressing the non-healing inflammation.
Here’s what we think is happening when a shock wave and laser treatment is applied to a damaged joint causing you (in your joints):
- Stem cell stimulation occurs which sends signals to the local stem cells and other growth factors to regroup and begin repairing damaged joints.
- Mesenchymal stem cell (MSCs – connective tissue stem cells) suppress inflammatory T–cell proliferation and provide anti-inflammatory effects. Applying these (Piezo Wave, EnPuls, TheraLase, Light Force) treatment modalities inhibits damaging chronic inflammation.
- Mesenchymal stem cells express various growth factors – these are active molecules that stimulate local tissue repair. These growth factors, and the direct cell to cell contact between MSCs and chondrocytes (the present remaining cartilage cells in the joint), have been observed to influence chondrogenic differentiation and cartilage matrix formation – in simple terms – stem cells regenerated cartilage.
Can shock wave repair disc lesions and other degenerated joints? We are seeing clinical outcomes that suggest it does. Do I think you should try this before more expensive and risky injections of stem cells? The answer is Yes!
Is Shock Wave Therapy Right For You?
My treatment goal is to help you relieve pain as fast as possible. My bigger goal is to help you slow the aging process of muscles, tendons and joints and change the internal environment of the joints from a degenerative condition to a healing condition.
When EnPuls (radial shockwave) therapy or PiezoWave (acoustic waves) is applied to the spine or joints it interacts with the skin, the fascia, the muscles, the blood vessels, nerves, and lymph to cause a mild controlled trauma that will restart the inflammatory and healing cycle. Part of that cycle is stem cell stimulation – the immune cells become ‘re-stimulated’ or ‘re-awakened’ to the site of damage. This will begin or restart the repair process needed.
These newer technologies called ‘shock wave’ are helping the body to re-start the healing cycle, especially if you have had a poor quality of healing take place. Poor quality of healing is probably felt as pain or stiffness in the area of a trauma or where there has been repetitive trauma even after a sufficient amount of time has passed by.
If you have Achilles tendinopathy and/or plantar fasciitis, Theralase laser and PiezoWave acoustic therapy is an effective and safe alternative to injections and cortisone medications. These are cutting edge non-surgical treatments for tendinopathies that are safer and less costly than platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments.