04 Jun Stem Cell Therapy: The Pros, The Cons, and How to Make it More Effective
Athletes are known for their drive, so it really comes as no surprise that many of them will engage in whatever health remedies are necessary to get them back in the game. Stem cell therapy is proving to be one of those therapies.
For instance, Dr. Monte Hessler shares that one of the last stem cell therapies he conducted was on an athlete who couldn’t participate in his sport of choice (racquetball) due to a knee injury. This patient had previous surgeries and tried cortisone injections, but nothing seemed to work.
That’s when his medical team told him that the only other thing they could do was a knee replacement, but Dr. Hessler—who has experience as team chiropractor for the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury, San Francisco Giants, and the PGA Tour—thought otherwise. And he was right.
After undergoing stem cell therapy, this athlete became pain-free and asymptomatic. Perhaps most importantly, he is back on the court once again. What other types of issues does stem cell therapy help treat?
Conditions that Benefit From Stem Cell Therapy
The Mayo Clinic shares that stem cell therapy can be beneficial for people suffering from a variety of conditions and issues. Among them are spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. It is also sometimes helpful in instances of heart disease, stroke, burns, and cancer.
Yet, Dr. Hessler warns that, in the context of chiropractic, these types of conditions are outside the scope of practice and, thus can “open a can of worms.” Instead, the usage of stem cell therapy in chiropractic settings should focus more on treating musculoskeletal and orthopedic conditions such as degenerated joints, soft tissue issues, tendonitis, and ligament issues.
For instance, one comprehensive review published in the journal Pain Physician reports that there is “good evidence” that stem cell therapy can help treat knee osteoarthritis. Another study indicates that stem cells assist with healing damaged tendons by regulating inflammation.
Dr. Hessler says that he prefers to call this type of therapy ‘regenerative medicine’ because it works by “recruiting our cells to help out with process of regeneration of our own natural material,” thereby speeding up the healing process. This is known as the Paracrine Effect.
Arnold Caplan, the father of stem cell therapy, agrees, further stating that an even better term for stem cells would be Medicinal Signaling Cells as this more accurately describes what these cells actually do since they act like a catalyst that gets the body to naturally heal itself.
That said, this therapy isn’t always the best or most effective option. Why?
Potential Stem Cell Therapy Cons
Dr. Hessler shares that this remedy doesn’t work for a small percentage of population because their bodies won’t do the recruitment effect. Unfortunately, there’s no way to determine who these individuals are beforehand.
Also, while the process of how stem cell materials are obtained is approved by the FDA, the material itself does not require approval from this regulatory agency. This can present major issues.
From a practitioner’s standpoint, stem cell therapy can also get a little confusing when it comes to describing what you do without being misleading. For instance, there is some controversy about where live stem cells come from—with some claiming that you can only get stem cells from adipose tissue or bone marrow as opposed to umbilical material—so this can be a sticky issue as well. That’s why Dr. Hessler strives to simply describe what is scientifically occurring in the process.
There’s also a concern that some practitioners are not necessarily following proper protocol. As an example, Dr. Hessler says that some healthcare professionals are using NPs to do stem cell, and they’re not performing the procedure under the correct guidance. “If it’s an extremity, it’s done under ultrasound guidance so know where you’re going with the needle,” Dr. Hessler explains, whereas deeper joints like those in the spine and hip should be accessed under fluoroscopy.
Enhancing Stem Cell Therapy’s Effects
To enhance stem cell therapy’s effects, Dr. Hessler recommends following it up with Pulsed Electro Magnetic Field therapy, or PEMF. “I do six follow-up treatments,” Dr. Hessler says, “to speed up the cell’s metabolism.”
NASA has conducted studies in this area, reporting that PEMF causes stem cell release within the body. This aids the healing process.
Dr. Hessler also recommends that DCs work with their athletic patients to do corrective exercises in conjunction with the stem cell therapy and PEMF as this improves the treatment response.
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