Stem Cell Therapy vs Cortisone: A Review and Analysis of joint pain options available
One of the most common questions from patients interested in regenerative medicine (PRP / Stem Cells / allografts) is “what is the difference between this and cortisone shots?” This question is common for a couple of reasons. First, cortisone and other corticosteroid injections are widely available in conventional care for joint pain. In particular, they are often used regularly in knee pain and osteoarthritis, shoulder and rotator cuff injuries, and in back pain. Secondly, regenerative medicine is relatively new and is only now starting to gain recognition and clinical considerations. These two factors can provide confusion to patients, so lets clarify this common question.
Overview of Cortisone
Cortisone is a corticosteroid that is commonly used in pain management, family medicine, and orthopedic medicine. Steroids possess very strong anti-inflammatory properties, which often provide pain relief upon injection. In conventional care, cortisone injections are used for many purposes including knee pain, shoulder pain, back pain, elbow pain and foot pain. The relief they provide varies depending on the patient and how severe their condition is. Generally speaking, cortisone injections often provide pain relief for around 3 months after treatment. The treatment is very safe and effective for short term pain relief. The problem with cortisone injections lies in the fact that they are simply reducing the inflammation causing the pain instead of treating the root cause of the pain to begin with. This is why patients routinely experience a return of pain and need another cortisone shot. The other newly discovered problem with cortisone injections, is that they cause long term joint damage. Recent evidence has demonstrated that cortisone actually erodes the joint and further degenerates cartilage as well as meniscus tissue and protein structures inside the joint capsule. This creates the cortisone paradox in which patients come in with pain from a degenerated joint and receive treatment that degenerates the joint even further.
Overview of PRP / Stem Cell Therapy
Platelet Rich Plasma and Stem Cell Therapy are new regenerative medicine treatments that can be used for musculoskeletal and joint pain instead of cortisone. The treatment involves taking a small sample of the patient’s own blood (60-120 ml’s), centrifuging, and then extracting the platelets from the other components of the blood. After the platelets are extracted and concentrated, they are ready to be utilized at the site of pain or connective tissue damage. Some physicians may further activate the cells before the procedure. This increases growth factor release and allows the cells to stay localized at the intended injection site. Stem Cell Therapy is generally a stronger regenerative medicine treatment than PRP overall and is a more time consuming and advanced procedure. Physicians can extract stem cells out of the patients own body either through bone marrow aspiration or adipose tissue (fat). These cells are then meticulously separated from the other extracted components, leaving a highly concentrated dose of live stem cells. Often times, physicians will add stem cells to a PRP solution for enhanced regeneration of connective tissue and increased cellular recruitment. The PRP / Stem Cell solution is injected into the damaged structures in and around the joint. The aim of the treatment is to restore structural strength and functionality of the joint. Also treating the supporting ligaments of the joint to provide further stability and structural integrity to the joint.
Indications for PRP / Stem Cell Therapy vs Cortisone
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Tennis Elbow
- Golfer’s Elbow
- Herniated Disc
- Sprain / Strain
- Back Pain
- Neck Pain
- Rotator Cuff Injury
Benefits of Regenerative Injections vs Cortisone
- Pain Relief
- Minimal Recovery Time
- Non-Surgical / Non-Invasive
- Strengthens Ligaments, Tendons, Cartilage, and Connective Tissue
- Utilizes your Natural Growth Factors / Cells
Cortisone continues to be commonly used in many pain conditions including osteoarthritis of the knee and shoulder. Patients generally experience a short term reduction in pain but often need continued follow up injections every 3-6 months. Long term cortisone use, further destroys the joint and increases joint pain when not on steroid therapy. Regenerative medicine therapies such as platelet rich plasma and stem cell therapy take the exact opposite approach of cortisone. PRP and stem cell’s provide pain relief while restoring the joints functionality and strengthening new connective tissue. Increased range of motion and joint stability may also be restored following comprehensive treatment of the low back. These outcomes provide attractive alternatives to cortisone injections with minimal expense and downtime. For more information about getting connected to a local stem cell therapy physician, Platelet Rich Plasma, or other alternatives to cortisone injections, please contact us at: 480-648-1534