stem cell therapy

A Stem in Time Saves Nine

For aging athletes, stem cell therapy may offer a painless future.

Shelly Cannon Health & Wellness

stem cell therapy

If that relentless tennis elbow or perpetual plantar fasciitis is cramping your lifestyle, regenerative medicine is great news. An array of modalities for treating pain that were once only within the purview of professional athletes are now available to everyone. Catering to active adults who want to sustain a healthy, exercise-centric regimen, regenerative medicine aims to offer a new lease on life.

At Palm Springs Regenerative Medicine Group (associated with Desert Pain Medicine Group), Dr. C. Edward Anderson Jr. and his colleagues use a spectrum of tools, including stem cell therapy, to treat patients for whom traditional approaches have not worked. After initial challenges with stem cell therapy, Anderson says today’s advanced treatments are yielding impressive results.

A stem cell is “a type of cell that can replicate and differentiate,” as Anderson describes it. That means the undifferentiated cell can multiply and transform into other types of specialized cells, such as bone or muscle cells. “Today, we’re using mesenchymal stem cells,” Anderson says.

Anderson’s group isolates these bone marrow–derived cells to mitigate pain and heal injuries. “With regenerative medicine, we use bone marrow aspirate up to age 50 if someone is athletic, and then we proceed through the process of isolating and using cells injected into the site of the injury.”

Treating painful injuries is no small matter. With the right treatment you’re more likely to sustain a long-term fitness regimen, translating to a better quality of life, positive mindset, and improved overall health. Whether you’re in your 40s or 50s and actively engaged in exercise or in your 60s or 70s and still passionate about playing sports, regenerative medicine can be a viable solution.

With conditions such as lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, Anderson says, patients see tangible results. “Epicondylitis frequently returns a few weeks after the last pain injection, still causing problems. But regenerative medicine procedures produce effective results.” In tennis elbow, the pain is caused by the inflammation of the tendon that attaches muscle to the bony projection on the outside of the elbow.

“As we age, muscle tissue seems to fare better than the connective tissue structures such as tendons and ligaments,” Anderson explains. “The advantage is we’re using biologic substances that diminish pain — as well as promote healing.” A giant leap for treating pain.

“The platelets, injected into the joint or ligament, contain alpha granules, 
which disintegrate and release a wide range of biomolecules that have growth factors and anti-inflammatory factors and are antimicrobial and angiogenic, 
all of which promote healing.”Dr. C. Edwards Anderson Jr.

Stem cell injections work well with conditions such as trochanteric bursitis, an inflammation of the hipbone and surrounding muscle, sometimes with a partial tendon tear. “We see the injured area improve [for] up to two years after the procedure,” says Anderson. “This treatment is effective for major joints including shoulder or shoulder tendon issues and knee joints as well as ailments such as Achilles’ tendinitis or plantar fasciitis.”

Achilles tendinitis impacts the tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, helping you run and jump. Plantar fasciitis affects the flat band of ligament that supports your foot’s arch, connecting your toes to your heel bone.

Other treatments under the regenerative-medicine umbrella include platelet-rich plasma (PRP) drawn from the patient. “We isolate platelet factors, giving them back to the patient in a high concentration, usually a concentration four to 10 times higher,” Anderson explains.

“The platelets, injected into the joint or ligament, contain alpha granules, which disintegrate and release a wide range of biomolecules that have growth factors and anti-inflammatory factors and are antimicrobial and angiogenic, all of which promote healing.”

Stem cell sources also include amniotic substances that are processed and screened in accordance with exacting American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) standards. When patients are considering surgery or other risky treatments, they often seek noninvasive options. Anderson says, “After trying conservative care approaches such as corticosteroids for sciatica, analgesics, physical therapy, radio frequency [ablation], bracing or shoe inserts … the patient can be a good regenerative medicine candidate.

“We are also able to use regenerative medicine in areas like the lumbar spine,” he adds, “depending on a wide range of factors, 80 percent of patients are getting relief for certain types of back pain.”

Costs for the procedures, not yet covered by most health insurance plans, can run into the thousands. But the benefits seem profound. A board-certified pain medicine specialist for more than two decades, Anderson says what he does now is far more sophisticated, and longer lasting. Genuinely relieving someone’s pain, it appears, can make everyone feel better.