A patient arrives at the doctor’s office complaining of knee pain. That patient’s complaints will by no means be unique. Knee pain is quite common and a frequent motivator for doctor visits. So the question then becomes one of what the doctor will do. How doctor and patient agree to treat the pain can make a difference to the patient’s future.
One treatment that seems to be growing more popular by the year is stem cell therapy. It is a therapy that involves harvesting stem cells from the patient being treated, processing them, and then injecting them into the knee joint. It is a very simple process in terms of practical application. When it works, it can provide long-term pain relief and a degree of self-healing.
Traditional Knee Pain Treatments
A person suffering from chronic knee pain is likely suffering from osteoarthritis or some sort of joint injury. More often than not, the first approach a doctor takes is a conservative one. He or she will recommend rest, ice packs, physical therapy, and non-steroid anti-inflammatories.
When these more conservative approaches do not work, doctors tend to resort to knee injections involving corticosteroid pain medications and hyaluronic acid. The latter acts as a joint lubricant. Both kinds of injections do offer significant pain relief for most people. But there’s a catch: neither injection actually treats the problem at hand. That problem is lost or damaged cartilage.
Stem cell therapy is different in that it does not seek pain relief only. It looks to encourage the body to regenerate lost or damaged cartilage, thereby relieving pain by fixing the problem. The healing focus on stem cell therapy is that which makes it so drastically different from nearly every other knee pain treatment.
Long-Term Pain Relief
Stem cell therapy also differs in that its focus is long-term relief. Pain medication and hyaluronic acid are both documented to be short-term solutions. Doctors know this when they perform the injections. As such, they expect patients to return on a regular basis for years on end.
A doctor offering stem cell injections for that same injury doesn’t automatically assume a long-term relationship with the patient, at least where that particular injury is concerned. The doctor is fully aware of the fact that some patients fully recover after a series of treatments. And even among those who do not recover fully, there is a good chance that each stem cell injection will provide relief for a longer term.
How the Procedure Works
Apex Biologix, a Utah company that supplies regenerative medicine equipment and kits to doctors, explains that the actual procedure is pretty basic. The doctor extracts stem cell material from either bone marrow or fat tissue in the same way blood would be drawn. The resulting material is processed in a centrifuge in order to concentrate the stem cells, which are then injected into the painful joint.
Once at the site of injury, the stem cells signal the body that it’s time to begin healing. It is not clear whether the stem cells only signal the start of the healing process or also contribute directly to healing as well. In either case, the body goes about the process of dealing with the problem at its source.
Apex Biologix explains that stem cell therapy does not work for everyone suffering from chronic knee pain. But neither do physical therapy, steroid injections, and joint replacement surgery. The point is that stem cell therapy does work for a lot of patients. And because it does, those patients do not have to consider more drastic treatments.