Stem Cell Injections Offer Alternative Way To Treat Orthopedic Injuries

Therapy uses body’s own healing process to speed recovery

DAYTON, Ohio (June 29, 2018) – The body has a natural ability to heal some of the most common orthopedic injuries, but sometimes the severity of the damage or a person’s age act as a roadblock to recovery.

Biological treatments, such as stem cell therapy, now offer physicians a way to approach musculoskeletal injuries by using the body’s own healing mechanisms to pinpoint the problem and often speed up recovery. 

“Stem cells are part of the body’s repair processes,” said Jeffrey James, DO, with Premier Orthopedics. “We all have stem cells inside our bones and fat cells that when activated have the potential to become any type of cell throughout the body.”

Stem cells used in orthopedic and sports medicine care are called mesenchymal stem cells. These cells have the ability to turn into bone, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and muscles. They also are known to reduce inflammation, fight cell death, and even self-replicate.

Stem cell therapy is when mesenchymal stem cells are harvested out of a person’s bone or fat cells and injected in the area of injury. Mesenchymal cells are from a person’s own body, and not stem cells harvested from another source such as an embryo, Dr. James said. The cells receive different chemical markers or hormones from that new area, telling it what type of tissue or bone it needs to become. 

Many people can benefit from stem cell therapy and most are good candidates for the procedure, Dr. James said. This includes anyone with chronic arthritis, and chronic muscle, tendon and joint injuries. Tendinopathies such as rotator cuff disease may also benefit from the procedure.

“An arthritic knee is already trying to heal from the arthritis while trying to regenerate healthy cells at the same time,” said Dr. James, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “Stem cell therapy takes the cells out of another site and places them in the area of injury – in this case, a knee – to help in the process of repair.”

Stem cell therapy does not guarantee certain results and may vary from person to person. It does, however, offer an alternative treatment to joint replacement surgery, or it can at least help delay the need for surgery in the future.

“Stem cell therapy absolutely has the potential to deliver a long-lasting benefit,” Dr. James said. “How long the benefit will last depends on many different factors such as the make-up of the joint, the degree of arthritis or damage, and an individual’s activity level.”

Stem cell therapy is done in a doctor’s office by first conducting a bone marrow aspiration, which is a procedure that removes stem cells from the hipbone through a long needle. A special process helps isolate the needed cells by using a centrifuge. Those cells are then delivered to the area of injury through ultrasound guidance.

Patients may have a brief period of limited activity, and may be referred to physical therapy by their physician depending on their individual progress.

“It’s important to understand that this is more of a healing treatment than a pain relieving treatment so someone isn’t going to get better in just two days,” Dr. James said.

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