Stem Cell Therapy for Knees: The Case For and Against
Does Stem Cell Therapy for Knees Work?
Here at the Pain Relief Institute, we’re not shy about proclaiming the benefits of stem cell therapy for a variety of ailments and conditions, and we don’t think we need to be. Our countless success stories give us confidence in the efficacy of our methods.
But honesty is a cornerstone of our relationship with our patients, and in that spirit, we’ll acknowledge that the benefits of stem cell therapy aren’t universally considered to be proven science.
To make sense of this difference of opinion, let’s examine the evidence and arguments on both sides, and let’s focus specifically on stem cell knee injections. This is perhaps the most common application of stem cell therapy and thus the one for which the most information is available. Before we begin, though, it may be useful to review the concept that underlines stem cell therapy.
Stem Cell Therapy: The Core Idea
Stem cells are cells with the ability to differentiate into various types of specialized adult cells. This means that in theory, if introduced to a part of the body where there is tissue damage due to injury or illness, they should promote the growth of healthy new tissue to repair or replace the tissue that is damaged.
Knee pain and loss of knee mobility often result from osteoarthritis, a condition that affects 30 million Americans. The cartilage pad that should keep bones from rubbing together has worn away with advancing age, and now the bones are grinding together. Stem cell therapy for knees supposedly relieves pain and restores functionality by growing healthy new knee cartilage, relieving inflammation, and reducing proteins called cytokines. Cytokines fight pain and slow the deterioration of cartilage tissue.
The Case for Stem Cell Therapy for Knees
Many physicians across the US and around the world report positive results for stem cell therapy for knees. They indicate that it thousands of cases, patients say they feel better, are able to move better, and X-rays indicate that new cartilage has grown inside the knee. There are formal studies that also found patients reporting good results with no serious side effects.
Stem cell therapy for knees likewise has the advantage of being minimally invasive with minimal recovery time, something that sets it apart from knee replacement surgery. Unlike opioid pain medications, stem cell therapy poses no threat of addiction.
After reviewing the available information, an article on Healthline concluded that for individuals suffering from osteoarthritis in their knees, stem cell therapy is an option worthy of serious consideration.
The Case Against Stem Cell Therapy for Knees
You may find the argument for stem cell injections for knee osteoarthritis convincing. We certainly do, borne out as it is by our own clinical experience. But at the same time, it’s only proper to acknowledge that much of the evidence thus far is anecdotal, and scientific truths are definitively established by rigorous experiments that can be replicated. In the case of medical knowledge, these experiments take the form of clinical trials employing a double-blind framework, objective measures, and other controls.
As of yet, we don’t have an abundance of such studies demonstrating the effectiveness of stem cell therapy for knees. This isn’t hard to explain given that stem cell therapy is such a new innovation, but if the existence of such studies is your standard of proof, you can make the argument that the value of stem cell injections for knees remains unproven, particularly where permanent improvement is concerned.
A survey found on stem cell centers around the country found that they reported on average an 80% improvement rate. Critics note that this is only 10% better than what the placebo effect would yield.
Still, what about all those patients who report significant improvement after receiving stem cell therapy for knees? Well, above and beyond the simple placebo effect, some commentators have observed that pain often waxes and wanes of its own accord, and people are most likely to seek medical intervention when the discomfort is at its worst. They then are inclined to attribute relief to the therapy even if the reality is that the pain is subsiding on its own. Critics have also discovered that the price the average stem cell clinic charges for knee injections is around $5000 with some stem cell centers charging as much as $12000. When you lay out a substantial sum for something, you want to believe you got your money’s worth. Nobody wants to feel like he’s been taken.
People who are dubious about stem cell therapy also note that, while there’s very little chance of serious complications with knee injections, other forms of stem cell therapy may have produced them. There have been reports of two people going legally blind after receiving therapy for macular degeneration, someone developing paralysis after therapy for a stroke and requiring radiation treatment, and other patients developing tumors. In response to such events, the FDA has given serious consideration to imposing additional regulations on stem cell centers.
Stem Cell Therapy for Knees: Sorting Out the Inconsistency
Thus there are arguments for and against stem cell injections for knees. How, then, are we to reach a determination about the effectiveness of the therapy?
Perhaps it will throw some light onto the subject if we take note of the fact that not all stem cell clinics are the same, and that the differences may be reflected in the efficacy of the stem cell therapy for knees that they offer. Reputable stem cell centers are in compliance with all FDA regulations. For example, if they use stem cells from donors (as opposed to from the patient’s own body), they test them for the presence of communicable diseases.
A good stem cell clinic also offers stem cell therapy in conjunction with other interventions likely to prove useful in a particular case. For a patient suffering from knee arthritis, for example, the clinic might recommend dietary changes in the service of weight loss and exercises to strengthen the joint.
Most crucially of all, perhaps, stem cell clinics differ as to the source of the stem cells they use. Some take them from fat, some from bone marrow, and some from umbilical cord blood.
Only the stem cells from umbilical cord blood have FDA approval to be used to combat blood cancers and certain other disorders. It’s not a huge stretch to infer that they may the most effective when it comes to providing stem cell therapy for knees.
We at the Pain Relief Institute encourage you to weigh the evidence and decide whether stem cell therapy for knees is right for you. If you determine that it is, we hope you’ll call us. We’re in full compliance with all FDA regulations, offer other therapeutic interventions in conjunction with our stem cell therapy, and use umbilical cord-derived stem cells to address your needs.