There are several stem cell therapies available on the market. Treatments for cancer, blood disease and eye injuries are among the most common uses for stem cells. However, stem cell injections to treat injuries and arthritis are gaining popularity.
In stem cell therapy, doctors use stem cells (either donated or harvested from the patient) to prevent a disease or condition. Bone marrow transplants have been around for a while, and are one of the best examples of stem cell therapy. Cord blood therapy, wherein parents save the blood from umbilical cords to use for future stem cell treatments, is also becoming more popular.
Stem cell injections are a newer application that use adult stem cells from a person’s body to heal injuries and relieve pain in other parts of the body. Injections into the knee, ankle, shoulder and Achilles are four common regions to benefit from stem cell injections.
Those who suffer from arthritis or injuries to ligaments and tendons may opt to have stem cells injected into the affected area to reduce pain and heal tears. As an alternative to knee and shoulder replacement surgery it is attractive to patients who want to forgo surgery and a lengthy recovery. Stem cells can also be injected into the ankle to treat arthritic pain and in the Achilles—the thick band that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone—stem cells have been known to treat Achilles tendonitis.
For these procedures, adult stem cells from your own body are harvested and injected into the area that needs attention. These cells have the ability to renew and transform into other cells, providing targeted healing opportunities for several areas of the body. First, a doctor will extract stem cells from an area with a heavy volume of cells. Then, the doctor injects those harvested cells into the damaged area to speed healing.
In some cases, stem cells are injected with other treatments, such as platelet rich plasma (PRP). PRP uses the same technology, harvesting and injecting PRP into a person’s body to repair injuries and reduce pain, as stem cell injections. The treatment can be complimentary to stem cell injections by stimulating the stem cells to make them word harder. While they share similarities, PRP injections use blood that is put into a centrifuge to separate platelets. The platelets are then re-injected into the injured area, releasing growth factors that promote natural tissue healing, much like stem cell therapy. The latter however uses a different process of extracting the rejuvenating cells.
Some offices can harvest and inject stem cells in the same day. On many occasions, stem cells are harvested in one appointment but it takes several subsequent appointments for them to be reintroduced into the body. Your doctor will decide the timeline based on the technologies his office uses and the individual injury.
In all of the cases listed above—stem cell injections to the knee, ankle, shoulder and Achilles—stem cell injections are used to alleviate pain caused by injury or arthritis. In many cases, stem cells are used as an alternative surgery, an attractive option for patients who don’t want to go under the knife or endure a lengthy recovery.
The purpose for getting stem cell therapy is dependent on the individual case. For athletes, stem cell injections may provide a faster recovery option to surgery, one that can get them back into the game faster. Shorter sideline periods and less recurrent pain are big draws for athletes. For older patients, replacement surgeries have long been recommended, but some aren’t healthy enough for surgery and others don’t want to spend extended periods of time recovering in a nursing home. In those cases, biomedicine treatments, including stem cell injection, can help them skip or put off knee and shoulder replacement surgeries.
Stem cell injections in the knee, shoulder, ankle and Achilles reduce or eliminate pain caused by arthritis or injury, including overuse injuries, and can repair tears in the tendons and ligaments, including the Achilles. In some cases, the therapy also offers an alternate option to surgery.
Stem cell injections are a newer therapy and therefore have not been studied as much as other procedures. CloserLookatStemCells.org studies many treatments popping up at clinics across the country and evaluates them for proven safety.
For therapies such as treating blood diseases and injury to the bone, skin and eye, research has shown positive correlations and stem cells have thousands of lives. Many see the potential for stem cells to be used in other applications, but the benefit hasn’t necessarily been proven by science, at least not yet. There is always something to lose when you try an unproven treatment, however, for some, there is also much to gain.
Some people have adopted the thinking that cells from your own body are safe when injected elsewhere, but that isn’t always 100 percent true. There are risks when cells are removed and reintroduced to the body, sometimes after being grown or altered.
Always do your research before opting to undergo an experimental treatment and always talk to a doctor about the potential benefits and risks of the procedure before consenting.
Stem cell treatments have been used to cure cancer, blood diseases and injuries to some areas of the body. With stem cell injections in the knee, shoulder, ankle and Achilles, the most common symptom the procedure will relieve is pain. In some cases this includes natural repair of a tear in a ligament or tendon.
For those who have suffered injury to the ligaments and tendons including the knees and rotator cuffs, surgery is often the only alternative. Pain management procedures including physical therapy and medications can help, too. In many cases surgery or extensive rest will keep a person off of their feet for an extended period of time, while recovery time with stem cell therapy is limited or non existent.
PRP is another possible alternative. While some doctors suggest using the two therapies together to enhance its effects, others will prescribe one over the other for treating similar ailments.
The exact cost of stem cell therapy will depend on the procedure, the doctor or clinic you see and your insurance. Many clinics charge $7,000-10,000 for stem cell treatment. The procedures often are not covered by insurance unless used in conjunction with surgery so patients could be on the hook for the full amount.