Stem cells have received much attention in the media. Professional athletes are using them and so are many other patients. Are they right for you?
A stem cell is a cell early in development which has not yet become a specific type of sell such as a bone cell, cartilage cell or tendon cell. Theoretically, clinicians hope that injecting stem cells in an injured or painful site may help to generate better tissue.
Stem cells come from many sources including bone marrow (typically pelvic bone), fat tissue and donor sources (amniotic membrane and umbilical cord). We do not use any embryonic stem cells. We have patients using stem cells for osteoarthritis, tendon damage, ligament damage and other conditions.
Prolotherapy is a newer technology. Dextrose (a type of sugar) is injected into ligaments or tendons. This acts as an irritant and triggers wound healing. New collagen is formed, which is the material of tendons a ligaments. This new collagen shrinks as it develops resulting in a tighter tendon or ligament.
Prolotherapy is a treatment that has been around for a long time, but until recently was not used for tendons, and musculoskeletal disorders. Since this use is newer, there are studies being done to evaluate prolotherapy effects.
Beware of clinics promoting stems cells or other injections without evidence based research, or that make claims that seem too good to be true.