Stem cell therapy for knees has the potential to provide relief to a lot of people. Knee pain is an common condition that affects millions of Americans and people around the world. Considering the daily load that legs bear, a problem with your knees can limit movement. Knee pain can substantially reduce your quality of life and anti-inflammatory medication can only do so much. Suffice it to say, there exists significant interest in finding solutions to address knee pain and to restore healthy joint function.
That’s where stem cell therapy for knees comes in.
Why Is Stem Cell Therapy For Knees Important?
With the growing power of regenerative medicine, more physicians are now able to offer affordable, cost-effective and – most importantly – long-lasting treatments that address pain in the short and long term. Stem cell therapy for knees carries with it the possibility to make knee joint pain obsolete.
Despite the promise of regenerative therapy, however, it’s still important to perform due diligence before making a decision. This requires understanding some facts about knee pain. These facts include what causes it, how stem cell therapy provides relief, how it works, and who’s a good candidate.
The Prevalence and Problem of Knee Pain
More than a third of Americans suffering from arthritis experience severe joint pain (arthritis), the number rising to 15 million in 2014. A recent Korean study concluded that 46.2% of people over 50 suffered some type of knee pain, of which roughly 32.2 percent are men and 58.0 percent are women.
Unfortunately, treatments are limited. Cortisone injections can cause secondary issues at the site of injection. Patients may suffer joint infection, nerve damage, skin thinning, temporarily greater pain, tendon weakening, bone thinning, and bone death. These are clearly not minimal risks. Other treatments include knee replacement surgery. This also carries all the normal risks of anesthesia and invasive procedures, and anti-inflammatory medications, which are the prevailing cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
One can easily see the appeal of a simple injection. So exactly how does stem cell therapy work? What are recovery times like, what conditions does it treat, and who can get the treatment? These are critical questions to ask before embarking on a course of stem cell therapy. In fact, they should be asked even before setting up a consultation.
The main conditions treated by stem cell injections include knee osteoarthritis, cartilage degeneration, and various acute conditions, such as a torn ACL, MCL, or meniscus. Stem cell therapy may speed healing times in the latter, while it can actually rebuild tissue in degenerative conditions such as the former.
That’s a major breakthrough. Since cartilage does not regenerate, humans only have as much as they are born with. Once years of physical activity have worn it away from joints, there is no replacing it. Or at least, there wasn’t before stem cell therapy. Now, this cutting-edge technology enables physicians to introduce stem cells to the body. These master cells are capable of turning into formerly finite cell types to help the body rebuild and restore itself.
How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work?
Although it may sound like an intensive procedure, stem cell therapy is relatively straightforward and usually minimally invasive. These days, physicians have many rich sources of adult stem cells, which they can harvest right from the patient’s own body. This obviates the need for embryonic stem cells, and thereby the need for moral arguments of yore.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are one of the main types used by physicians in treating knee joint problems. These cells live in bone marrow, but increasing evidence shows they also exist in a range of other types of tissue. This means they can be found in places like fat and muscle. With a local anesthetic to control discomfort, doctors can draw a sample of tissue from the chosen site of the body. The patient usually doesn’t feel pain even after the procedure. In some cases, the physician may choose to put the patient under mild anesthesia.
They then isolate the mesenchymal stem cells. Once they have great enough numbers, physicians use them to prepare stem cell injections. They insert a needle into the tissue of the knee and deliver the stem cells back into the area. This is where they will get to work rebuilding the damaged tissue. Although the mechanisms aren’t entirely clear, once inserted into a particular environment, mesenchymal stem cells exert positive therapeutics effects into the local tissue environment.
Mechanisms of action of mesenchymal stem cells appear to include reducing inflammation, reducing scarring (fibrosis), and positively impacting immune system function.
That’s not quite enough to ensure a successful procedure, however. That’s why stem cell clinics may also introduce growth factors to the area. These are hormones that tell the body to deliver blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the area, helping the stem cells thrive and the body repair itself.
Physicians may extract these growth factors from blood in the form of platelet-rich plasma (PRP). To do this, they take a blood sample, put it in a centrifuge and isolate the plasma, a clear liquid free of red blood cells, but rich in hormones needed for tissue repair.
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