Did you know that when you walk down stairs, the load on your knees can reach as high as five times your body weight? The knee is the largest, and most complicated joint in the human body. Here is a brief study in knee anatomy:
The knee is made up of parts 4 different bones: the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), the fibula (smaller shin bone), and the patella (knee cap).
The major muscles which cross the knee are the quadriceps (front of your thigh), hamstrings (back of your thigh), sartorious, and gastrocnemeus. The primary range of motion for the knee is flexion and extension. These motions are depicted and labeled in the picture below:
In addition to flexion and extension, there is a small amount (approximately 5 degrees) of rotation or twisting in the knee. During activities where the knee is being compressed, this rotation can leave the knee vulnerable to injury. This risk is mitigated by a muscle called the popliteus. This muscle plays a key role in preventing small twists in the knee that reduce its capacity for absorbing shock.
There are 4 ligaments that help to stabilize your knee; they prevent the knee from bending in ways that would cause damage. The two intrinsic ligaments (located within the joint) are the ACL and the PCL (anterior cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligament). The two extrinsic ligaments (lining the borders of the joint), are the medial collateral ligament and the lateral collateral ligament (MCL and LCL).
Each knee has a layer of cartilage, called the meniscus, which serve as the knees’ shock absorbers. This cartilage can be damaged due trauma in a single event, like a sports injury, or this damage can occur over a long period of time. The meniscus has a poor blood supply which limits its ability to heal. For this reason, many people turn to surgical options.
Scientific studies about the success rate of meniscus surgery show a poor prognosis for long term follow up. This means that while the surgery helped in the short term, over the long-haul, the knee that was operated on was still not 100%. The same studies also often found that these patients were prone to undergo more surgery down the line.
Some of you may be familiar with, or have tried corticosteroid injections in the past. While this procedure has shown to decrease symptoms in the short term, they do little in terms of healing the joint. They actually accomplish the opposite and can accelerate the degradation of the joint by masking the pain and allowing the patient to do more damage without noticing.
One of the most common conditions of the knee is arthritis. This is often the result of more force being placed on the knee than it can handle over a long period of time (traumatic incidents also significantly increase the risk of arthritis). The surfaces between where the bones meet each other become rough and irregular. This produces symptoms like pain, stiffness, and crepitus (increased clicking/grinding noises).
It was recently published in a scientific journal that the amount of people who experience knee OA during their lifetime has doubled for males and tripled for females over the past 20 years. There have been a number of risk factors identified, but the increased burden of knee OA demands innovative new approaches.
This is where stem cells come in. Think of these as the building blocks to create a human body. We are born with a very high number of these stem cells, but they decrease dramatically as we age. This is why younger people typically have greater healing potential than older people.
Recently, advances in stem cell technology have shown that there are multiple types of stem cells that can be isolated to be used for regenerative medicine. We use a Wharton’s jelly derived Mesenchymal Stem Cell product. Wharton’s jelly is a specific part of the umbilical cord that has been proven to contain some of the most potent stem cells for healing purposes (Mesenchymal Stem Cells, aka MSC). Wharton’s jelly also has on of the highest concentrations of hyaluronic acid, a critical component to shock absorbing tissues.
By injecting a dose of these stem cells into the knee joint, we are giving the body a surplus of raw materials with which to repair damaged tissue. Once inside the knee, the stem cells quickly get to work by identifying what types of cells are most needed. They can then change themselves to become whatever type of cell that is. For example, if your knee has a lot of damage to the cartilage, the stem cells will transform to fill the gaps in the cartilage.
The procedure costs significantly less than knee surgery (average knee surgery is $60,000!) with virtually none of the risks involved. Stem cell therapy is proven to be safe and effective consistently and age does not appear to be a factor in your outcome!
It is important to understand that knee pain is not simply a knee problem, it is a quality of life problem. Limitations due to knee pain can prevent you from enjoying physical activity and lead to a more sedentary lifestyle. This sedentary lifestyle is associated with increased risk for chronic conditions like cardiac (hypertension), endocrine (Diabetes), and/or some types of cancer. This lifestyle has also been linked to increased chance of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety (who the heck wants to go exercise when they are in pain?).
Knee replacement surgery has been shown in studies to have a 30 day mortality rate of 1 in 400. That means that for every 400 knee replacement surgeries, 1 of those patients will likely die. Stem cells offer a safe and effective alternative to this surgery.
Stop letting knee pain rob the joy from your life. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to those around you. Call our office today, or visit our website, to find out more.