Stem Cell Therapy: Learn About This Innovative Treatment for Your Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, The Vanguard Clinic, PRP, platelet-rich plasma

About 31 million men and women in the U.S. deal with the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis every day, and if you’re one of them, you know the toll the disease can take on your life. Osteoarthritis occurs when the joint surfaces get damaged, usually as a result of age-related wear and tear, but sometimes as a result of injury or excessive strain on a joint.

For many years, the only way to deal with arthritis was to treat the symptoms with medication and physical therapy, following up with surgery for joints that had been badly damaged. But today, stem cell therapy is being used to help repair damaged joint surfaces, which restores damaged joints so pain is reduced and mobility is improved naturally, without drugs or surgery. Here’s how it works.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are special cells that can “transform” into any other type of cell, including bone, cartilage, and muscle cells. In the early years of stem cell therapy, researchers used fetal stem cells (also called embryonic stem cells) during stem cell therapy. But today, doctors can extract these special cells from our own bodies, usually from blood, bone marrow, or fatty (adipose) tissue. They can also be extracted from umbilical cords left over following a birth. At The Vanguard Clinic, stem cell therapy uses cells from umbilical cords or adipose tissue.

Once stem cells are harvested, they can be “grown” into different types of tissue in a lab, or they may be injected directly into a damaged joint. When stem cells are injected, your body acts on them to change them into the cells that are needed to repair the damaged area. Sometimes, stem cells are injected with platelet-rich plasma (PRP), a special solution that’s made from your own blood. PRP contains proteins called growth factors that work side by side with stem cells to promote healing.

Stem cell therapy for osteoarthritis

Stem cells are used in two ways to treat osteoarthritis. Sometimes, cells are grown in a lab to create cartilage grafts. These grafts can then be implanted surgically to replace areas where the cartilage is severely worn. Other times, they’re injected directly into the joint to produce new, healthy tissue that the body can use to make repairs on its own. In some cases, stem cells can be used to help repair damaged tissues surrounding the joint, like ligaments or tendons. These tissues are also important for normal joint function, and when they’re damaged, they can make osteoarthritis and its symptoms much worse.

At The Vanguard Clinic, stem cell injections are performed in the office. Since injections work by encouraging the body to build new, healthy tissue, it can take a few weeks for you to start seeing results. Treatment can be repeated as needed. After your injections, you'll probably have some minor swelling and tenderness around the injection site, but these issues will soon resolve. 

Stem cell therapy vs. medication

Unlike medication and corticosteroid injections that treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis, stem cell therapy helps repair the underlying damage so you can have less pain, less inflammation, and better mobility over time. Stem cell therapy also isn't associated with the side effects that can occur with long-term use of pain medication, nor does it have the potential risks associated with invasive procedures like arthroscopy or other types of surgery. Plus, because your own stem cells are used for the treatment, you don't have to worry about allergies or rejection issues.

Find out if stem cell therapy is right for you

Stem cell therapy is an innovative approach to osteoarthritis care, and for many patients at The Vanguard Clinic, it can help them avoid more invasive treatment options. To learn more about stem cell therapy and other injectable options like PRP, book an appointment online today.

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