Stem Cells and Active LifestylesNovember 29, 2017
Here at BennuLife we see a lot of very active people, people who make the Little Engine That Could go a little further for shame of being shown up by human beings. And they inspire us to create better, more sophisticated technology every day so that we can get them back to what they love as quickly as possible. One of the injuries we see most frequently in this type of patient is the long-term overuse injury. Sometimes it’s a labral or meniscal tear. Sometimes it’s an osteochondral defect that happened during an overaggressive CrossFit workout. If you’re us or someone like us, it may be a dislocated ankle from walking. Yes, just walking. When there are people in the world who run ultramarathons, teach aerial silks classes, and win CrossFit challenges, there have to be others of us who are coordination-ally challenged to keep things in balance.
When active people encounter an overuse injury, they usually go through conservative care (ice, rest, physical therapy), which is often successful. After a certain number of reinjuries many people do eventually fail conservative care, at which point they are presented with a couple of options:
Change your lifestyle to accommodate your new level of pain and disability (as compared to before the injury).
Undergo an invasive surgery which may or may not alleviate the problem, and in some cases may make it worse.
This presents a problem for many active individuals who have plans for running marathons, completing Tough Mudders, or competing in CrossFit events. They don’t want to take 6 weeks or 3 months off to have surgery and then go through the recovery process, nor do they want to stop participating in the activities they love. This is where bone marrow derived cells or concentrated platelet preparations can be a godsend, but don’t take our word for it. Let’s take a look at the science supporting a couple of these treatments instead, and then you can draw your own conclusions.
First, one of the most common issues we see in patients who are distance or lifelong runners is symptomatic degenerative disc disease, which amounts to back and leg pain resulting from malfunctioning cartilage in between the bones of the spine. When it doesn’t respond to conservative treatment, patients often opt for a spinal fusion surgery, but even successful surgeries require lengthy recovery times and don’t guarantee a return to full activity. This is presumably why researchers have been investigating the use of adult bone marrow derived stem cells as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery. While several studies have investigated this, researchers in the US found that a single injection of the patient’s own concentrated bone marrow cells can alleviate pain by approximately 70% for up to two years. Several other studies have shown similar results.
Another equally frustrating challenge for the active individual is knee osteoarthritis, for which there are very few treatments with long term efficacy. There are synthetic injections that essentially lubricate the joint, but they don’t provide long term relief. Doctors in the US have provided bone marrow concentrate injections as a treatment for knee osteoarthritis for quite some time, and they have consistently demonstrated improved function and reduced pain. The thing our active patients love about this type of approach is that there is very little downtime. It’s not like surgery where you’re guaranteed to need time to rebuild your muscles and get back to your life. After a bone marrow concentrate injection, your doctor will usually tell you to take it easy for a few days, maybe wear an offloading brace, and then gradually resume your normal activities.
So next time you experience a sports related injury, ask your doctor if using your own bone marrow derived cells is an appropriate option for you, and if he doesn’t have that option at all, give us a call: (512) 637-2089. We’re happy to help you get back to your active lifestyle, even if it’s like ours over here and involves tripping over your own feet a lot!