Have you ever heard of stem cell therapy?
You may have seen advertisements for stem cell therapy that claim it can cure anything!
Have pain in your knees or shoulders?
Why not use stem cells to cure your problem?
It sounds too good to be true. Although many chiropractors and naturopathic physicians offer stem cell therapy as an alternative to treatments like surgery, their proposed remedy may not be as advertised. In fact, when it comes to stem cell therapy it can be difficult to know who to trust and where to find reliable information about how it works and its long-term effects.
At a medical conference hosted by the University of Utah in May 2020, Dr. Jason Dragoo, MD from the orthopaedic department at the University of Colorado spoke to our sports orthopaedic department on this very subject. One of the most important things to know about "stem cell therapy" is that it is incorrectly named. Stem cell therapy does not always use stem cells. The term “cellular therapy” is more accurate. Dr. Dragoo explains, “stem cells are in our bodies and in every tissue compartment but as we get older, they lose their ability to become any cell in the body.” Adult stem cells are more specifically called “Progenitor cells or “mesenchymal stem cells” (MSCs)” These cells can only become bone, fat, cartilage, or muscle and cannot be injected into other parts of the body (e.g. the eyes or pancreas) to help regenerate those areas. Most of the time these cells are injected into the painful joint itself.
Just as importantly is the massive spread of misinformation regarding cellular therapy. What is actually known about the capabilities and limitations of this type of treatment is still really limited and currently being studied. For example, when progenitor cells are injected into bone, fat, cartilage, or muscle, they may help relieve pain and reduce inflammation in the target site. However, we do not know yet if these cells can actually rebuild the cartilage in joints affected by arthritis. In short, if a provider tells you that stem cell therapy will cure your arthritis, this is not true.
PRP is another type of injection that is useful in people who have joint pain. PRP stands for platelet rich plasma. There are two types of platelet rich plasma which include PRP leukocyte (white blood cell) poor and PRP leukocyte rich. PRP leukocyte poor has been shown to potentially decrease signs of inflammation and symptoms of osteoarthritis. PRP leukocyte rich has been used in some cases of tendinopathy to help.
If you are interested in learning more about what may help you with your shoulder or knee pain, our sports orthopaedic department is happy to help. Our physicians’ practices and treatments are founded on evidence-based medicine powered by the latest medical research. We encourage you to contact us if you are looking for help and guidance in treatments that could be beneficial to you.