Human beings are naturally afraid of the unknown. This fear is part of the built-in mechanism of self-preservation inherent to humanity. So it is understandable that people would be fearful of medical procedures they know nothing about. Hence all of the negative reactions to stem cell therapy as an alternative to more traditional treatments for osteoarthritis.
While stem cell therapy is catching on, it still somewhat of an outlier in American medicine. The number of patients whose osteoarthritis is being treated via stem cell injections is but a fraction of those undergoing pain management, steroid injections, and joint replacement.
Perhaps it might help some osteoarthritis patients if they understood the anatomy of their condition. Knowing the details of osteoarthritis may make it easier to understand just why stem cell injections are helpful for so many others in the same position.
What a Healthy Joint Looks Like
A joint is a place where two bones come together to give flexibility to a limb. At the ends of both bones is cartilage that both protects the bones and provides a cushion between them. The entire joint is awash in a fluid that provides the necessary lubrication for smooth, pain-free operation.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that turns a healthy joint into an unhealthy one. As the joint begins to break down, pain is caused by bones grinding against one another. The friction of that grinding is often enough to immobilize a person at least temporarily.
What an Unhealthy Joint Looks Like
How bad can the damage of osteoarthritis get? In the early stages, the affected joint is minimally painful as cartilage begins to break down. Continual loss of cartilage eventually exposes bone in various locations at and around the joint. This leads to bone spurs and the further erosion of the joint’s meniscus.
Eventually the unhealthy joint will consist mainly of unprotected bone with minimal cartilage and lubricating fluid. Bones grind together even with slight movements, creating intense pain. A patient reaching this point may be referred for joint replacement surgery to relieve the pain.
What Stem Cell Therapy Does
Utah-based Apex Biologix explains that stem cell therapy for osteoarthritis is intended to address the degenerative nature of the condition by encouraging the body to replace lost and damaged cartilage. In some cases, the best a patient can expect is slower progression of the disease. In other cases, patients experience reduced pain as a result of new cartilage being generated.
So what does stem cell therapy actually do? It does two things. First, the stem cells appear to trigger a response within the body’s natural healing mechanisms. That response involves flooding the area at and around the join with the raw materials necessary to replace damaged and lost cartilage.
The second thing stem cell therapy appears to do is provide some of the raw materials needed to jump-start the healing process. It is sometimes combined with PRP therapy based on the knowledge that platelet-rich plasma contains a cornucopia of critical growth factors that can also aid in the generation of new tissue.
Joint replacement surgery completely removes the affected joint and replaces it with an artificial one. Steroid injections and pain medication simply mask the pain temporarily. Only stem cell therapy gets to the root of the issue and actually encourages the body to heal itself. That is why more and more patients are choosing it instead of taking a more traditional approach.
And now you know. Does this explanation help to make the case for stem cell therapy in your mind?