If you are old enough to remember the playing days of former NFL quarterback Sam Horn, you’re also old enough to remember the days when Pro football was all about brute force. Eight years of football really took its toll on Horn, eventually convincing the former pro to undergo stem cell injections to help manage his chronic pain.
Horn says the injections really helped him. So much so, in fact, that he formed the Board of Directors of a Phoenix regenerative medicine clinic that opened some six years ago. That clinic now offers both stem cell and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments to former pro athletes, wounded veterans, and just about anyone else looking to avoid invasive surgery and long-term use of pain medications.
What is happening in Phoenix is not unusual, according to the Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) based in Salt Lake City, Utah. ARMI officials say that stem cell and PRP therapies are quickly gaining popularity as a better alternative to masking pain or replacing damaged joints.
Regenerative Medicine Basics
Regenerative medicine procedures take advantage of the way the body is naturally programmed to work. It all boils down to healing rather than looking for some other means to relieve chronic pain. If the body can be encouraged to heal itself, things like joint replacement surgery and pain medication become obsolete.
Stem cell and PRP procedures utilize material taken directly from the patient being treated. In the latter case, stem cells are extracted either from fat tissue or bone marrow. The material is then processed in a specialized centrifuge before being injected into the treatment site.
A PRP procedure works much the same way, except that the injected material is concentrated blood platelets and their associated growth factors and nutrients. Blood is drawn from the patient, processed in a centrifuge, and then injected at the site of injury.
Both procedures signal the body to begin the healing process. Blood platelets mobilize, sending out signals to the body to send the raw materials necessary for rebuilding lost tissue. Growth factors encourage new tissue to form while stem cells contribute by differentiating into the kind of tissue necessary for healing to take place.
Results Vary Among Patients
It is important to note at this point that regenerative medicine does not work for everyone. According to Horn, roughly 70% of the people treated at the Phoenix clinic do achieve positive results. How positive those results are vary from one patient to another. Unfortunately, roughly 30% of patients don’t experience a significant improvement.
The reality that stem cell and PRP injections may not work have to be considered by patients prior to undergoing treatment. But that is no different than any other treatment. Patients have to consider that prescription pain medication may be less effective over time. They have to consider that steroid injections may actually make their conditions worse.
The point to understand here is that varying results by no means equates to stem cell and PRP therapies being junk medicine. They are legitimate medical procedures with both promise and verifiable results. In fact, Horns’ Phoenix clinic has been approved by the VA to provide treatment to veterans. The clinic is also FDA compliant.
Across the country there are people suffering from chronic pain as a result of injury and disease. Some are athletes like Sam Horn. Others are military veterans injured in the line of duty and still others are average joe’s suffering from the ravages of osteoarthritis. Many of them are being helped by way of stem cell and PRP injections.