As the joint where your upper arm bones, shoulder blades, collarbone and a dozen different muscles and tendons meet, your shoulders are the body’s most flexible joint. Its complex anatomy enables you to perform a wide range of motions, such as scratching your back, reaching an item on a shelf or throwing a ball.
However, this remarkable mobility comes at a price. Since it can move in several directions, the shoulder joint is more prone to injuries than most joints in the body. Moreover, playing certain sports or overworking the shoulders can easily lead to injuries that cause pain and limit movement.
Surgeries are usually recommended when conservative treatment plans fail to relieve these symptoms, but stem cell therapy for shoulder injuries is a relatively new option worth exploring. This non-surgical treatment shows great potential in healing the joint without requiring invasive procedures.
Before we delve into the advantages of stem cell therapy and some studies exploring its efficacy, it helps to first look into the common shoulder injuries it can treat.
Common Shoulder Injuries Stem Cell Therapy Can Help With
Bursae, the small, fluid-filled sacs cushioning the joint, can become irritated and swollen after repetitive motions, excessive use of the shoulder or a fall. This condition can lead to pain and sometimes redness and swelling.
This is a condition where the tendons in the shoulder become inflamed as a result of overuse. Tendinitis is classified into two main types: acute, which can happen after excessive overhead motions, or chronic, which develops from repetitive wear and tear due to age or degenerative diseases like arthritis.
Rotator Cuff Tears
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder that provide joint motion and stability, allowing you to lift and rotate your arm easily. Repetitive overhead motions can irritate or damage the rotator cuff. It can also be torn and injured during falls and other accidents.
The shoulder labrum is a rubbery cartilage lining the joint’s socket. When it tears due to overuse or injury, you may experience shoulder instability, shoulder pain, and, in some cases, a feeling of locking or grinding while moving the shoulder.
Shoulder arthritis occurs when the cartilage on the ball and/or socket parts of the shoulder joint wear down. This causes inflammation, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.
Excessive, repetitive overhead motion in swimming, weightlifting, pitching, and tennis are among the leading causes of shoulder injuries among athletes. They can develop over time through intensive and repetitive training routines.
How Shoulder Injuries Are Usually Treated
Treatment for most shoulder injuries begins with simple, conservative methods like rest, medication, ice, and medications. If the pain does not improve, an anti-inflammatory medicine may be injected into the joint. Patients may also be recommended physical therapy and a change in physical activities to help the joint heal faster.
It is only when these methods fail to improve pain and function that doctors suggest surgery. It can be done through arthroscopy to access and repair torn tissues with smaller incisions or through traditional open procedures, especially for extensive reconstructions.
How Successful Is Stem Cell Therapy for Shoulder Pain?
Stem cell therapy can be a promising alternative to surgery. Although a relatively new treatment option, studies have shown its efficacy in improving pain and function among patients with shoulder conditions.
In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, 20 patients who received stem cell injections for 12 months for rotator cuff tears reported significant improvement in pain and function.
A Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research study in 2017 had similar findings. Patients who underwent stem cell therapy for a year to treat shoulder arthritis saw pain relief, better joint function and improved imaging findings.
Finally, 43 patients who received BMAC (bone marrow aspirate condensate) and PRP (platelet-rich plasma) for their rotator cuff tear treatment continued to enjoy significant improvements in pain and function two years after the therapy.
Why Choose Stem Cell Therapy for Shoulder Pain
If you’re an athlete who wants to return to the game as soon as possible or simply a patient who wants to avoid the risks of invasive surgeries, stem cell therapy is worth exploring.
Stem cell therapy harnesses the power of undifferentiated cells to stimulate the body’s natural capability to repair, rebuild or replace damaged cells and tissues. Some of its most notable advantages over other surgical options include:
- Minimal risks and chances complications when compared to surgical procedures
- Lower to no chances of rejection (the stem cells used are usually taken from the patient’s own body)
- Potential to treat severe injuries and degeneration with limited to no treatment
- Encourages natural healing of damaged tissues
Best of all, the recovery time after stem cell therapy is much shorter. You may experience irritation on the injection site and mild pain within the next 48 hours after the session, but a day of rest and a cold compress to the injection site are often enough to reduce pain.
Ultimately, the healing period generally lasts up to six weeks, which is still significantly shorter than surgical interventions.
What To Expect in Your Stem Cell Therapy Appointment
While your therapy will ultimately be tailored to your specific condition, here’s a general breakdown of the steps you can expect to go through:
- Patient Evaluation
Your medical history and current health will be assessed to determine if you can be a candidate for the procedure and which type of stem cell should be used.
- Stem Cell Source Selection and Collection
Stem cells are obtained from your own body (autologous) or a donor’s (allogeneic), depending on the most suitable source identified during the evaluation.
- Stem Cell Isolation and Processing
The collected stem cells are processed through filtration and centrifugation in a lab to isolate and concentrate them.
- Stem Cell Administration
The processed stem cells are administered via injection into the injured shoulder.
- Monitoring and Follow-Up
After the therapy, you will be closely monitored for any complications or adverse reactions. Follow-up appointments and tests will also be done to assess the effectiveness of the treatment.
The entire procedure is performed as an outpatient session, so you can go home the same day.
Learn if You’re a Candidate for Stem Cell Therapy
If you want to be free from shoulder pain and enjoy a better range of motion without the risks associated with invasive surgical procedures, you may be a good candidate for stem cell therapy. Let us help you take the next step toward an improved quality of life – contact our team at Chicago Stem Cell Therapy & Regenerative Medicine today to understand if this is the right fit for you.