Knee pain is among the most common complaints you may have as you age. So naturally, you may be wondering about stem cell therapy for knees. Your knees literally take a beating every step, jump, bend and skip of your life. Your daily assault on your knees or actual injuries can add up over time. Joint tissues have poor blood flow and, therefore, poor healing; this is where stem cells can shine. We can put those healing cells directly at the site of the damaged joint tissues. Stem cell therapy is new in the world of medicine and we are just starting to scratch the surface in finding out what stem cells can do.

How effective is stem cell therapy in treating knee injuries and conditions?

Are you ready to run, jump, walk, or maybe even get out of bed without achy knees? Are you looking for a natural solution for knee pain? Do you want to avoid surgery (or another one)? Are you done with your knee pain? Stem cell therapy for knees may be right for you.

Stem cell therapy has become an interesting aspect for the researchers all over the world. It is carried out by re-injecting a patient’s own stem cells which treat the degenerative disorders and injuries by the phenomenon of regrowth, reducing inflammation and signaling regeneration. Ongoing clinical trials show that stem cell therapy can be effectively used for treating disorders associated with the knee. Despite the several sources available for the collection of stem cells, our doctors recommend the use of a patient’s own stem cell for the therapy to eliminate the risk of immune response. Stem cells are collected either from blood, bone marrow or the adipose tissues. We as Naturopathic doctors believe using your own stem cells can be the ultimate in natural healing methods. This treatment can yield highly promising results.

Doctors believe that stem cell therapy is less likely to produce any side effects when treating knee injuries and other disorders. However, because stem cell therapy is such a young field, clinical trials for effectiveness are still underway and are being run throughout the world. Still, it is known that using your own cells as treatment virtually eliminates any negative reactions and potential side effects of treatment. As with all therapies, ongoing research is needed to be done to fully understand the perks and detriments associated to stem cell therapy for treating a knee injury. And clinical trials are in full force. The clinical trial data base lists over six thousand active trials for stem cell therapies.

The already published research work has revealed very positive results. A study from 2014 claimed that stem cell therapy alleviated pain and exhibited cartilage regeneration in patients who were injected with stem cells after the surgery of torn knee cartilage removal.

It is becoming more common, in many medical papers, that doctors and researchers have claimed that surgery won’t be the only option for treating meniscus tear, arthritis, even ligament and tendon damage in the future, with the success of stem cell therapy; in addition, it is a very minimally invasive approach. Chinese doctors have stated in a new study that repairing meniscus tear particularly in the zone with no blood vessels to transport healing components, has been quite challenging for a while mainly because of suppressed healing capacity of avascular zone. However, they believe that stem cell therapy can be more effective in repairing a meniscus tear. This is because stem cells are known for their differentiation and regeneration potential; as they can easily be differentiated into cartilage and meniscal cells.

Stem Cell Figure 1

Another study conducted by the Harvard University doctors, on the meniscal stem cells of mice, revealed highly promising results. The doctors believe that elaborate research on meniscal stem cells of mice can contribute imperative information regarding several aspects that can help optimize the treatment of meniscal tear and other related knee injuries by employing the stem cell therapy.

Researchers at Hiroshima University, Japan (one of the countries at the forefront of stem cell therapy for knees) conducted a study that involved the transplantation of stem cells, taken from the tibia of rats, into the torn meniscus. The results showed optimal healing which led them to surmise that in near future, stem cell therapy will conveniently transcend surgical approaches that are currently in practice for treating and repairing the meniscal tear. Lucky for you, the future is now.

A sports medicine and orthopedic physician from Mayo Clinic, Shane Sharpio, conducted a study on 25 patients, with both knees in a bad condition, to assess the effect of stem cell therapy in case of a knee injury. Each patient received a stem cell injection (stem cells were collected from their own bone marrow) in one knee and saline placebo injection in the other. It was a blind study in which the patients weren’t aware of which injection they received in which knee. After a close monitoring of six months, the results revealed a substantial improvement for all patients and the pain score was calculated as one out of ten for both the knees. On one hand, it was a remarkable discovery that suggested that therapeutic efficiency of stem cells for the treatment of knee injuries, however, on the other hand, it raised questions regarding the placebo saline injection. Why did the knee that was given a placebo injection, also show similar results as the knee that received the stem cell injection? There are numerous studies available which propose that it is very much possible that the stem cells injected in one knee exposed to injury, can travel to the other knee. It is well known that stem cells can be used intravenously and the body’s wisdom can guide the stem cells to the needed location (following the same signaling used by the immune system). In some cases when multiple joints are affected it may be more effective to treat a patient IV rather than the multiple joints.

Sharpio’s approved clinical study suggests that osteoarthritis and associated pain can be effectively treated by stem cell therapy. We along with Sharpio believe that this is just the beginning steps to uncovering the potential of stem cell therapy for knee pain, joints and much more. More clinical trials are needed in a multitude of areas. Shapiro does present it as a less painful alternative to knee surgery with minimal side effects.

The Knee

Knee Diagram

The knee happens to be the largest and one of the most complex joints of the body. The knee joint comprises of 4 bones. They include:

  • A large shin bone called tibia
  • A small shin bone beside tibia, called fibula
  • Patella or commonly referred to as the knee cap
  • Femur or otherwise known as femoral groove

These bones are connected and held in place by ligaments and articulate (move) under control of muscles, which attach to the bones via tendons. Between tibia and femur are cartilage menisci that play the role of shock absorbers or cushions. These structures also assist in stabilizing the knee. There are 2 menisci, lateral and medial meniscus. Damage to any one of them can result in torn cartilage. On the other hand, articular cartilage present in the knee facilitates the bending and straightening of the knee. It is basically a covering above the 4 bones of the knee.

Ligaments: They act as a strong connection between the bones. 4 major ligaments of the knee are:

  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL)
  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)

Muscles and tendons: Muscles are connected to the bones through tendons. The key controlling muscles of the leg are quadriceps muscles which are connected to the patella through quadriceps tendon. Quadriceps muscles assist in straightening of the knee whereas hamstring muscles assist in the bending of the knee. Overuse of tendons can result in tendonitis, commonly patellar tendonitis.

Bursae: These are small sacs filled with a little amount of fluid and they tend to minimize the friction between the soft tissues and the bones. The number of bursa present within the knee is estimated to be 14.

Knee pain and its causes:

People of all age fall victim to knee pain, however, the severity of pain and the cause may vary from one person to another. Knee pain may be either localized or diffusive; it may either cause tenderness upon touch or produce persistent throbbing. In order to identify the underlying cause, the doctor may opt medical imaging or physical exam. Below are the common causes that contribute to knee pain:

  • Bursitis: it is characterized by the inflammation of one or more bursa. Bursitis can bring about excruciating pain and limited mobility
  • Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS): it is characterized by the inflammation of Iliotibial tendon’s distal portion. The injury occurs due to constant knee extending and flexing. Runners are more prone to this injury.
  • Anterior cruciate ligament injury: overstretching of ACL can contribute majorly to this injury. It is often characterized by the popping sound and swelling of the knee.
  • Osteoarthritis: it is a degenerative joint disorder common in elderly. It is characterized by the shrinkage of the knee cartilage.
  • Meniscus tear: tearing of meniscus due to any reason can lead to agonizing knee pain.
  • Patellar tendonitis: it is the inflammation of the patellar tendon that results from excessive exercise, jumping, running and inordinate knee-bending.
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS): the pain associated to PFPS can range from moderate to severe. Patellar imbalance during flexion and extension can be the prime reason behind PFPS. The common contributing factors are inadequate footwear and training with low resistance.

It is estimated that over 100,000 stem cell treatments have been performed specifically to benefit joints, by far the largest amount of any type of stem cell treatment. Effectiveness can vary due to type of stem cell used, processing and treatment techniques. Studies have shown that stem cell treatment for knees and other joints to be very safe with virtually no side effects. Stem cell therapy has given rise to new possibilities in therapeutics and patient care, it still requires further large-scale investigation and research work.

Happy Runners

At San Tan Natural Medicine, we use adipose- (fat tissue) derived stem cells as our source. They are preferred due to the ease of harvesting and are 2500% more potent than any other source. Average samples have 25-30 million live stem cells per ml. Other sources have much less or even no viable cells only growth factors. When injecting directly into a joint, numbing solution is injected first causing the rest of the treatment to be virtually painless. The entire process can be completed in around 3 hours in most cases.

Our Most Commonly Treated Knee Conditions

If you have questions about whether you or your condition can be treated with stem cell therapy, below is a list of the knee conditions with which we have the most experience and success. If your knee condition isn’t listed, we still may be able to help, so please ask us.

  • Osteoarthritis (even ‘bone on bone’)
  • Meniscus damage and tears
  • ACL, MCL, PCL or LCL sprains or tears
  • Iliotibial band syndrome
  • Knee Instability
  • Clicking or cracking in the knees
  • Chondromalacia
  • Baker’s cyst
  • Tendonitis and tendinopathies

Are you ready to be rid of your knee pain? Looking for a natural approach or to avoid painful surgery? Stem Cell Therapy may be right for you and your knees. Schedule a Stem Cell Consultation now with one of our doctors by calling 480-636-1068 or schedule online.

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