Stem Cell Therapy
As we age, our bodies slowly wear out and dry out. This isn’t a pretty way of putting it, but it’s accurate enough for laymen. Discs in the back lose their fluid and compress against one another, hip joints become bone on bone, and knees hurt. The vague diagnosis of osteoarthritis doesn’t make people who want to be athletic and enjoy a high quality of life feel any better. Although previous generations of older people endured the pain, took aspirin, walked with canes, or submitted to joint replacement surgeries, the current generation, accustomed to being large and in charge, wants more out life.
Just in time for this aging generation of Boomers, stem cells have captured the imagination of patients and physicians alike. But do they work?
For many patients, stem cell therapy is a new category of treatment options, although we have been using it in our practice for many years now. While it is sometimes thought of as controversial, most therapists who treat athletes know how well it works. In fact, it’s seen lately as a real alternative to surgery for degenerative hip and knee pain, as well as for meniscal tears.
It’s important to know that although many people use “stem cell therapy” as a catchall phrase, the true product that is being used is amniotic fluid or amniotic placental tissue. We have used many products over the years that have promised good results and have been able to narrow them down to a few good treatments based on the area or pain being treated.
When we try a patient on stem cell therapy we actually use a combination of amniotic fluid and umbilical cord tissue, which have good results both for reducing inflammation and for encouraging regenerative properties.
We know that cervical, thoracic and lumbar pain can be managed with stem cells injected in the epidural space or the facet joints of any of those regions. But we’ve gone further than that.
We’ve also used stem cell therapy for intra-articular injections into shoulders, hips, knees, elbows and even into the ankle joint. Typical conditions that are helped by this treatment include the vague degenerative pains that come from overuse or aging. Ligament and cartilage irritation also respond to stem cell therapy.
We used to use steroid injections to get rid of this kind of inflammation, but now amniotic fluid and stem cells have been found to be much better, because they also help in regeneration.
The anti-inflammatory effect of amniotic fluid is not only much better than that of steroid shots, but comes with fewer side effects.
One of the issues is that amniotic fluid is not covered by insurance, and is costly. However, because we have such high volume, we get preferred pricing on these products and can offer them to our patients at an “attractive” price.
A small group of “bio-hackers” has gone even further, using stem cells for anti-aging purposes. Its value there is less clear, but these researchers, some of them physicians, are giving themselves full body stem cell makeovers to keep themselves from aging. A pioneer in this field is Dr. Harry Adelson, whose Docere Clinic has pioneered stem cells as well as exosomes.
From day one, his practice has been 100% regenerative injection therapies for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain conditions. In 2006 he incorporated platelet-rich plasma and ultrasound-guided injection into his armamentarium, in 2010, bone marrow aspirate concentrate and adipose-derived stem cells, and in 2013, fluoroscopic-guided injection (motion X-ray).Since February of 2010, Dr. Adelson has performed over 5,000 bone marrow and adipose-derived adult stem cell procedures and has injected stem cells into over 500 intervertebral discs, placing him among those most experienced in the world with the use of autologous stem cells for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain conditions.
While we’re much more conservative and use stem cells only to relieve pain, we think this is one of the most promising new modalities to keep those Boomers out of their rocking chairs.