Stem Cell Treatments
Lower back pain and knee pain are a common issue affecting mobility in many Americans. The newest treatment for conditions causing these pains like Degenerative Disc Disease and Knee Osteoarthritis involves the use of Stem Cells, but how does it work? To understand this treatment, let’s first take a look at what conditions like Degenerative Disc Disease entail.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative Disc Disease is a condition that can cause back pain and involves the disks within our spinal cord. The spinal cord is made of vertebrae that provide structural support, and these vertebrae have discs to help cushion the bones and provide us flexibility. Degenerative Disc Disease is the wear-and-tear of these discs, which is actually very common as we age. As these discs degenerate, they are less efficient at working as a cushion and our bodies are unable to regenerate or reverse this effect on their own.
How can Stem Cells provide a solution here?
The latest method of using Stem Cells for treatment that has been showing effectiveness is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP). Platelets are a type of cell found in our blood that plays a big role in helping make clots and help fix injuries. These cells can also create Growth Factors, which have the ability to regenerate or rebuild tissue in our bodies. This treatment uses a sample of your own blood to create a concentration of your platelets that is injected back into a source of pain. This can be helpful with conditions like Degenerative Disc by working to rebuild damaged tissue. PRP is actually already used as a treatment for individuals undergoing Orthopedic Surgery to help regenerate tissue and reduce pain.
How can PRP be used to treat other conditions like Knee Osteoarthritis?
Knee Osteoarthritis can develop in a similar fashion as Degenerative Disc Disease in that it involves the wear and tear of body tissue. With Knee Osteoarthritis, there is a degradation of cartilage in the knee which is causing joint pain and lack of mobility. Common treatments for this condition can include surgeries or corticosteroid injections to allow pain relief. PRP can be helpful here in that its regenerative properties can provide greater long term pain relief than steroids, and it helps avoid the need for surgeries as it rebuilds damaged tissue. MRI studies have actually shown that PRP can flip the trajectory of this disease from degrading tissue to entering a healing state.
What are some of the drawbacks of PRP?
There is still more research being conducted on this treatment and its long-term benefits. With the procedure requiring an injection, individuals have mostly only reported short term pain at the injection site. In comparison to alternative treatments such as steroid injections, PRP is in fact more expensive in the short term. In the long term, however, PRP can be a cheaper option as it likely involves less risk of re-injection or potential surgery than corticosteroids over time. It has also been found that older patients may benefit less from PRP due to the fact that their bodies are less capable of regenerating tissue. Researchers are now attempting to find the best way to administer this treatment to maximize pain-relief and mobility.
Is PRP safe? How is it compared to the alternatives?
There is still a lot of research being conducted on this new treatment, but clinical studies have shown this treatment to be safe without any reported adverse reactions over time. The treatment makes use of the patient’s own blood, so there’s minimal risk of infections or immune reactions. In comparison to common treatments such as corticosteroids or surgery, PRP is seen as a potentially safer and more effective option. PRP leads to greater long term pain relief and mobility than steroids, and it’s much less expensive or invasive than surgical routes. PRP has been shown to have less adverse side effect risks than the aforementioned treatments as well and has been shown to reduce the risk of future surgeries.
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