Stem cell injections are a relatively new form of regenerative therapy that can help with a variety of conditions. Research on the use of stem cells as regenerative medicine is at the early stages for many conditions. Right now, there is ample evidence that stem cell therapy works well for correcting many blood and autoimmune disorders. The ability to replicate stem cells in a lab setting makes them useful for creating tissue grafts for people with extensive burns. Corneal repair is another issue stem cells have proven to remedy safely.
It’s important to note that there are many ongoing clinical trials for stem cells as a regenerative medicine. There are implications that stem cell injections can help a number of conditions. These might include tendon and ligament injuries, joint pain, spinal issues, and osteoarthritis. But medical stem cell research is still in its infancy; you need to consult a doctor who specializes in regenerative medicine if you’re considering stem cell therapy. Thankfully, one of Dr. Blatman’s specializations is stem cell therapy. Below we’ll discuss the 10 most common questions people have about stem cell therapy. We have answers for everything from what stem cells are and how they work, to what treatments cost and how your insurance deals with stem cell therapies.
Stem Cells FAQ – Common Questions
1. What are Stem Cells?
The answer to this question is more complicated than you might think. In the simplest terms, stem cells are the body’s basic raw material. They have the ability to continuously replicate and the ability to form into cells with specialized functions. For instance, the cells in your liver are not the same as the cells in your brain; each is specialized. Each started as a stem cell and then became differentiated (turn into specialized cells like liver or brain). Stem cells are the only cells in the body that have the natural ability to generate new types of cells, which is why they have positive implications for regenerative medicine.
2. Where do Stem Cells Come From?
Stem cells are found in different parts of the body. Fatty tissue and bone marrow contain stem cells. So do blastocysts and umbilical cords. There are a lot of misconceptions about where the stem cells used in regenerative medicine come from. But at Blatman Health and Wellness Center, Dr. Blatman only gets stem cells either from the patient’s own tissue or from placenta or umbilical cord products of healthy live birth infants, willingly donated by the mothers.
The thing is, adult stem cells are different than perinatal stem cells. They’re older, less effective at replicating, and their ability to differentiate may be less than perinatal (umbilical) stem cells. Perinatal stem cells also have no chance of rejection and tend to be more effective at replicating. This makes them better for certain treatments than adult stem cells. These differences between adult and perinatal stem cells are still not completely understood, which is another reason ongoing research and clinical trials are so important for optimizing stem cell therapies.
3. What Types of Conditions do We Use Stem Cell Injections For?
Because we take stem cell injections from neutral sources like your own body or perinatal tissue, it is very unlikely that a patient’s body will reject them. This is a main principle behind regenerative medicine: isn’t it better to heal a person with that person’s own biological material? At Blatman Health and Wellness Center, we use stem cell treatment for lower back pain, knees and other major joints in patients with chronic pain. We also provide MS stem cell treatment and treatment for spinal cord injuries. While it isn’t a cure for MS, stem cell injections can greatly improve the patient’s quality of life.
4. How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work?
In short, adult stem cell therapy in the form of stem cell injections stimulates your body’s healing processes. Stem cells should continuously multiply, essentially “rebuilding” the damaged/injured area. Because stem cells develop to have special functions, it’s possible to guide the stem cells towards different functions in a lab setting. Bone marrow isn’t the same as cartilage, so the ability of stem cells to differentiate is what has made modern medicine so interested in using stem cells. Before we started to look into what stem cells can do, there wasn’t an effective way to create new, healthy cells to replace damaged cells in a patient.
5. Do Stem Cell Injections Hurt?
Patients may experience discomfort during the procedure as well as aching for a few days following an injection of any type of regenerative medicine. Pain medication or a topical numbing agent may be used. You will use moist heat and more to increase your body’s ability to heal.
6. How Long is the Stem Cell Treatment Recovery Process?
The length of the recovery period this type of regenerative medicine depends on the type of injury being treated. In general, expect 1 to 2 weeks for the discomfort to be mostly gone. Injections are a same-day procedure that can take as little as 1-2 hours to complete. In some cases, patients can return to work as early as the next day or the next week.
7. How Long Does it Take to See Results?
Stem cell treatments are unique because the cells go to work to assist your body in healing the underlying damage. Invasive medical procedures like knee replacements just replace the damaged tissue with a new device. Stem cell therapy is a healing and growth process; it can take a long time for your body to build new cartilage, but it saves you from the risks and pains of surgery. Many patients report considerable improvements after only two weeks following a regenerative medicine treatment like stem cell injections, but it can take up to a year to see complete results. What this means is that you’ll likely see improved mobility with every passing month.
8. What Does Stem Cell Therapy Cost?
The cost of stem cell therapy depends on different factors like how many injections you need and the type of injury you have. Additionally, there are several ways to get stem cells for your treatment. In general, there are a limited number of stem cell clinics in the US, and an even smaller number of physicians who understand how to correctly perform the procedures. Fortunately, regenerative medicine is much more affordable than most surgeries because there are no lengthy hospital stays or expensive anesthesia. If you’re concerned about cost, please call our office to learn more about your available options.
9. Will My Insurance Cover Stem Cell Treatment?
Insurance usually does not cover treatment with stem cells. Your HSA account and policy may be helpful. Patients should consult with their insurer for more information on reimbursement and filing a claim for a regenerative medicine treatment. In some cases, payment plans may be available. We expect and hope that as more clinical studies show the safety and efficacy of stem cell therapies that insurers will become more and more likely to cover them the way they would cover more traditional treatments.
10. Are There any Risks to Stem Cell Therapy?
Even regenerative medicine has its own risks. The human body is infinitely complicated – any time you mess with the body at a cellular level, things can go wrong. The main risks the FDA lists for unproven stem cell treatments are: adverse reaction at the injection site, migration of the injected cells to a different area, treatment failure, and the growth of tumors. Now, these may at first sound scary, but these risks are minimal compared to surgical procedures or pharmaceutical use. And these concerns stated by the FDA only apply to unproven conditions performed by doctors who do not specialize in regenerative medicine or stem cell treatments. If you have questions, please call our office and speak to a medical professional about your concerns.