One of the many questions we get in regards to stem cell therapy is, “How long will the recovery process take?” Or, “How long will it be before I start to feel better?” Just like most things in healthcare, there isn’t one answer that applies to everyone, especially when it comes to orthopedics.
In this blog, we will discuss the average length of time it takes for most of our patients to start seeing differences and how long those changes typically last. How does this compare to the typical treatment process of steroids and surgeries.
First of all, when it comes to orthopedics in general most people have a misunderstanding of the length of time it takes to recover from these injuries. We have grown accustomed to their being a pill for this or an noninvasive surgery for that, then we will be right back up on our feet and feeling great. In orthopedics though, there is typically a 100 day healing time after a surgery. 100 days just to heal. That doesn’t mean that you will be back to full strength, flexibility and activity levels. That’s just healing. That’s why it usually takes 6 months before you see your favorite football player get back on the field after an ACL surgery. Or why your coworker couldn’t get back to playing golf until 9 months after their rotator cuff surgery.
Well, what about the use of steroids? Those work pretty well and really quick. Yes, they do AND also there is research out there that shows steroids actually decrease inflammation but in the long term cause more damage to the joint the more you use them. Each injection of steroids you receive can actively cause damage to your joint cartilage and make you 6x more likely to need surgery later.
If you’re using medicines and steroids as a way to avoid having surgery, ask yourself how much more time you’re adding to your overall recovery process? 2-3 injections a year with occasional physical therapy can get costly and prolong the inevitable surgery that is coming your way. The truth is that medicine nor steroids nor surgery actually produces healing at the direct cause of pain.
Is there anything that will trigger healing? YES! This is where the discussion around regenerative medicine, PRP and stem cell therapy come into play. These naturally occurring medicines are part of our bodies unique ability to heal after an injury. Using the blood or platelet rich plasma (PRP) from your body for tendinitis and recurring inflammation can actually trigger a healing response. Think about it this way — you get a cut on your arm and it bleeds. The blood has unique properties that help clean the cut so you avoid infection and then the blood triggers a healing response so your body can lay down new tissue and skin. In a week or 2 it’s like it never happened. We can use your blood in a similar fashion but drawing it, spinning it down so the healing properties are separated from the red blood cells, then injecting that solution (PRP) back into your inflamed rotator cuff or other area of chronic pain and inflammation.
Using stem cell therapy works in a similar fashion. Stem cells are the building blocks of our bodies. They have a unique ability to become any type of tissue that is present in our bodies. That’s right — they can become bone, muscle, stomach cells, heart cells, ANYTHING. When we harvest them from our own bodies in a very concentrated dose, we can then place directly into your knee cartilage that’s degenerated or that disk in your back that keeps causing you pain. Doing this supplies the area with a dose of regenerative soup that can do its job on actually healing the source of the pain and dysfunction.
So how long does it take? According to the majority of our patients they start feeling better within the first 6 weeks. As a whole, the regenerative medicine and process will continue to work inside your body for 4-6 months following the procedure and you will notice continued improvement and change.
The best part — you don’t have to take 6 weeks off of work while you’re healing from surgery and you won’t need an in home assistant to help you dress and clean yourself. Nor will you need 3-6 months of physical therapy following the treatment or any sort of long hospital stay. Our procedures are done in our office and our patients resume normal daily activities within 2-3 days.
Will I need to repeat the procedure? In almost 10 years of doing these procedures, we have never needed to repeat a stem cell procedure for the same problem. We have heard patients report a range of 60% improvement up to 100%. We have had patients avoid surgery and even some cancel their surgeries the day before it was scheduled to try this instead. They report being so thankful they did.
Why the big range of 60-100%? Remember that not all bodies are the same and not all injuries are of the same caliber. Not all rotator cuff tears are the same size or in the same place. Not all knee degeneration is to the same degree. But consider this, if a doctor is telling you that you need a knee replacement because you are “bone on bone,” but instead you did stem cell therapy and got 60% better, would that be a win? You could get up and down from sitting with 60% less pain. You could go down stairs with 60% less pain. You could even squat or get on the floor to play with your children/grand children with 60% less pain. Wouldn’t you call that a win? Versus a long involved surgery that requires 3-6 months of therapy afterwards and no guarantee that your pain will be completely gone. The research shows that nearly half of the people who have joint replacements still experience pain.
All in all, doesn’t it make more sense to use your body’s own ability to heal and addressing problems directly versus just masking them will longterm steroid use while waiting for surgery? Check out this link to learn more about how regenerative medicine could help you get back the life you’re missing out on.