Stem Cell Therapy For Shoulder Pain
The shoulder consists of a complex connection of joints, ligaments and muscles that work together. While you probably use your shoulder in a variety of ways for your daily activities, this is one joint that you tend to take for granted – until it starts to hurt. Every year, more than two million Americans visit their physician complaining of shoulder pain. What can you do about it? At Spectrum Health, we offer you the best of cutting-edge technology – stem cell therapy, to help you get rid of shoulder pain.
What Are My Options In Dealing With Repeated Shoulder Pain?
When you experience shoulder pain for the first time, some rest and the right kind of exercise may be all that you need. If it recurs, however, you are often given a course of anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers. While these might reduce the pain, long term intake of anti-inflammatory drugs can cause several side effects, including gastritis and renal toxicity. Surgical options are often recommended for long standing pain, to explore, debride and repair the damaged tissue in the shoulder joint.
At Spectrum Health, we believe in avoiding invasive procedures if we can help it. That’s why we aim at regenerating your body tissue, rather than repairing it. Scientists believe that this ‘biological’ form of therapy will have more long-term benefits than surgical repair. Stem cell injections into the shoulder will help achieve exactly this objective, without any scarring, so that you can be pain-free naturally!
Can Stem Cells Help Heal My Shoulder?
The efficacy of stem cell injections in repairing damaged tissues of the shoulder joint has been well established in several animal models (Valencia Mora et al., 2015). Microscopic examination of these models has revealed that, after injection, there is development of fibrocartilage, which is needed at the junction between the tendons and the bone. The clinical efficacy has also been established in humans. Centeno et al. investigated 102 patients who underwent stem cell injections for shoulder pain. They found that there was an improvement in both pain and disability scores, which continued for up to two years after treatment.
Am I A Candidate For Stem Cell Injections Into My Shoulder?
For minor, one-off pain that is probably due to a strained muscle, shoulder rest and physiotherapy may do the trick. But if your pain recurs, and is affecting performance of daily activities and lifestyle, it is time to look at other options.
- Have you been dealing with shoulder pain for more than three months?
- Do you find yourself subconsciously avoiding activities which require you to use your shoulder?
- Does your pain come and go frequently, or, is it continuous?
- Do you find yourself wanting to reach to painkillers on a daily basis?
If your answer to most of the above questions is ‘yes’, it is time to explore stem cell therapy as a treatment option. Nagging, frequent pain is often a sign of damage in the shoulder joint region. This could be due to inflammation or tear in muscles such as the rotator cuff or pectoralis. Stem cells not only reduce inflammation, but also promote healing of damaged tissue. Early shoulder arthritis, which also presents as chronic pain, can benefit with stem cell therapy as well.
When you schedule an appointment at Spectrum Health for your shoulder pain, you may be required to undergo a series of tests, such as X-rays and an MRI image of the joint. This is done to ascertain the joint status and locate the exact anatomical cause of your shoulder pain. Dr. Joseph Locke will then consult with you one-on-one, and, based on the results of your scans, and your physical status, will determine whether stem cells is the right option for you.
What Can I Expect During The Procedure?
Stem cell injections into the shoulder do not require hospital admissions and general anesthesia. It can be done right here at Spectrum Health’s outpatient clinic. The entire procedure takes a few hours. Although the areas we work on will be numbed with local anesthesia, we can offer you anxiety reducing drugs, or mild sedation to make you happy and comfortable throughout the process.
The first step is harvesting the stem cells from your body. For stem cell shoulder injections, the mesenchymal stem cells are usually harvested from the bone marrow at the back of your hip. Unlike the bone marrow biopsy, which you may have heard of as being painful, this is procedure is comfortable and painless. The tissue harvested from your hip is then taken to our state-of-the-art laboratory, where it is processed in a centrifuge. The stem cells are separated from the remaining tissue. We also process a bit of your blood, and isolate a component called ‘platelet rich plasma’. This has abundant growth factors that help the stem cells do their job.
The area over your shoulder is then prepared and numbed with local anesthetics. To visualize the damaged area accurately, Dr. Joseph Locke uses advanced imaging technology such as ultrasound and fluoroscopic imaging. Through guided imaging, the needle is gently inserted precisely into the area of damage. The stem cells are then delivered to this area, along with platelet rich plasma, so that they can begin their healing process.
Why Should I Consider Stem Cell Injections Over Other Options For My Shoulder Pain?
The following reasons might help you decide in favor of stem cell injections for your shoulder pain, over other options:
- For long standing shoulder pain, conservative options do not work. While painkillers and steroids might help in the short run, it is best to avoid frequent use of these drugs due to their undesirable side effects. You do have the option of surgery, but not only is this invasive, cumulative evidence shows that this may not necessarily correct the problem. This is because, while surgery repair the tears present in tendons such as the rotator cuff, it cannot replicate the unique tendon-bone junction that is present in this region. The tendon-bone junction remains scarred, which limits functioning.
- Stem cells, on the other hand, ‘regenerate’ rather than ‘repair’, and so this junction can effectively be replicated by injections.
- You also avoid the complications associated with an invasive surgical procedure, such as stiffness of the joint and nerve injury.
Stem cell injections do not take up much of your time. There are no lengthy laboratory work-ups required, and you do not need to remain overnight for any procedure. You will need single initial appointment for consultation and imaging, and a follow-up appointment after the procedure, but the actual procedure is over in a single sitting of three to four hours.
Are There Any Side Effects To Stem Cell Injections Into My Shoulder?
Stem cells by themselves are absolutely safe and do not cause any adverse reactions in the areas into which they are introduced. We only use ‘autologous’ stem cells, which means the cells we inject into you are strictly the ones taken from your body, and not from other donors. This removes the chance of allergic and inflammatory reactions. Since stem cells work on a biological mechanism, they are absolutely safe.
As with any minor procedure, stem cell injections may cause slight soreness and mild swelling at the site of injection. This is harmless and will pass in a few days. You will be given a short course of prescription painkillers to deal with this discomfort.
We take precautions to maintain complete sterility and hygiene. All are procedures are done using strict asepsis protocols. Therefore the risk of developing an infection is extremely minimal. A rare few patients, who have compromised immunity, may develop infection at the injection site. However, this can be dealt with promptly by the use of antibiotics.
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- Valencia Mora M, Ruiz Ibán MA, Díaz Heredia J, Barco Laakso R, Cuéllar R, García Arranz M. Stem cell therapy in the management of shoulder rotator cuff disorders. World J Stem Cells. 2015;7(4):691-9.
- Centeno CJ, Al-Sayegh H, Bashir J, Goodyear S, Freeman MD. A prospective multi-site registry study of a specific protocol of autologous bone marrow concentrate for the treatment of shoulder rotator cuff tears and osteoarthritis. J Pain Res. 2015;8:269-76.