Stem cells are essentially the body’s own repair kit.
When a part of the body is injured or affected by inflammation, stem cells go to the area that’s affected to help with the healing process. In some cases, stem cells are unable to reach the part of the body that’s affected, especially if the injury is severe or the damage is extensive.
If situations like this, stem cells may be harvested from another part of the body and injected into the area that needs some help healing. This process is referred to as stem cell therapy.
What Stem Cell Therapy Does
The purpose of stem cell therapy is to help the body repair damaged tissue. It may also encourage more productive healing in a way that prevents pain that may be affecting mobility and range of motion from lingering for months or years. For some patients, a positive response to stem cell therapy may improve quality of life enough to minimize dependence on medication or eliminate the need for surgery.
Types of Pain Stem Cell Therapy May Manage
Stem cell therapy is being used to help some patients with spinal cord injuries regain sensation below the injury site. Additionally, this type of treatment could provide relief patients with pain from joint-related injuries like what may be experienced while playing sports or sustaining a hard fall or impact.
With arthritis, in particular, newer types of stem cell therapy are being used to treat patients with osteoarthritis, a common form of arthritis that typically affects joints in the spine, knees, hips, and hands. Stem cell therapy may also benefit patients living with pain from:
- Joint disorders and diseases
- Rotator cuff tears
- Diabetes-related pain
- Cancer pain
- Neurological diseases
- Metabolic and immune system disorders
Before, During, and After Therapy
Prior to starting stem cell therapy, several tests are typically done to confirm that the correct source of pain or injury is being treated. Stem cells are then collected from fat tissue (adipose tissue) that’s usually taken from the hip or back area. Once the fat tissue is gathered, it’s spun in a lab (centrifuged) to separate the stem cells. Collecting these cells is step one of the procedure.
When the stem cells are ready, they will be injected into the area of the body where some extra help with tissue healing is needed during the second part of the procedure. In certain situations, stem cell therapy may be combined with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy to further facilitate the natural healing process. Stem cell therapy is an outpatient procedure usually completed in about four hours, requiring little or no recovery afterward. There may be some minor and temporary discomfort around the injection site.
It should be noted that stem cell therapy isn’t meant to be the first attempt at pain management. Prior to recommending this type of treatment, remedies that involve pain and anti-inflammatory medication, various forms of physical therapy, and activity modification are usually suggested to manage symptoms and give the body time to heal. If these attempts at pain relief aren’t effective, stem cell therapy may be discussed. Since stem cells come from other parts of the body, it’s considered a safe procedure with minimal risks for many patients.