5 Compelling Reasons to Consider a Stem Cell Shoulder Treatment Instead of Surgery

POSTED ON 1/30/2016 IN Shoulder BY Christopher Centeno


The shoulder is an amazing and complex ball-and-socket joint and is the most mobile joint in the body. This unique mobility is possible because the socket portion of the joint is quite shallow, so it requires a group of four tendons—the rotator cuff—to hold the ball firmly in the socket as you lift and rotate your arm.

Rotator cuff tears are the most common injury of the shoulder, and due to the complexity of this joint, surgery is difficult, painful, and can require lengthy therapy. The Regenexx stem cell shoulder treatment may allow you to pass on the surgery and use your own stem cells to heal your tear.

There are five key questions you should ask as you compare shoulder surgery to the patented Regenexx protocol for stem cell shoulder treatment.

1. Is a Rotator Cuff Tear Observed on MRI a Strong Predictor for Pain?

There's a very simple answer to this: no! Common sense seems to dictate that if the doctor says there is a rotator cuff tear on our MRI and our shoulder hurts, the tear and the pain must be related. But, interestingly, there is no connection.

A recent study shows that patients with larger rotator cuff tears actually had less pain. In fact, the single biggest thing that predicted pain was higher levels of the inflammatory marker IL-8 (interleukin 8), not the appearance of the tear on the MRI.

Be very careful if your doctor says you have shoulder issues simply based on the findings of an MRI. It's a bit more complex than that.

2. Is Rotator Cuff Healing after Surgery Associated with Improvement?

This sure seems to make a lot of sense, right? The doctor's going to go in and sew up your shoulder. It's going to heal, and then your shoulder's going to feel better. But, in fact, recent research shows that when we consider a multitude of different studies, this doesn't happen. There isn't a great correlation between the improvement of the patient and whether or not the rotator cuff actually healed.

For instance, we see patients with MRIs show improvement in the healing of their rotator cuff after surgery who do just fine, but we also see patients whose MRIs show no improvement in their healing who do just fine. So patient-reported outcomes were generally improved whether or not the repair restored the integrity of the rotator cuff.

3. What's the Existing MRI Evidence That Stem Cell Injections (Without Surgery) Can Improve Rotator Cuff Appearance on MRI?

In the images in the video above, neither patient had surgery. In both cases there is a large rotator cuff tear in the before images. A few months after the patients underwent the patented Regenexx stem cell shoulder treatment, the after images show no rotator cuff tear. While there is no guarantee that this happens in every patient, it's encouraging evidence that this is promising technique.

4. Is There Published Research on Regenexx Injections for Shoulder Arthritis and Rotator Cuff Tear?

Yes, and if we look at what's been published, Regenexx is the only group to date that has published any information on the use of stem cells to treat shoulder injuries. In June of 2015, we published this article on 115 patients who reported very good results with the patented Regenexx treatment.

We determined this by measuring our patients' activity levels using a DASH (disabilities of the arm, shoulder, and hand) scale. Patients answer questions on a scale of 1 through 5 with 1 being no difficulty doing the activity and 5 being unable to do the activity. The DASH average score improved from 36.1 to 17.1 for our 115 patients. Their pain level decreased from 4.3 to 2.4 out of 10 points. This data is collected in a case series that's followed in registries. For the 115 patients in the article, data was collected as they were treated, not in a randomized controlled trial.

5. Is There Any RCT Data on This Technique?

The above video shows the early results of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) we are in the process of performing. The trial includes twenty patients who were randomized either to exercise therapy or to the Regenexx stem cell shoulder treatment.

In regard to function (DASH Function) and pain (NPS), you can see in both cases that the patients are doing better in the group that was treated with the patented Regenexx protocol versus the group that was treated with just exercise therapy (i.e., physical therapy). In fact the function and pain are worse in patients treated with exercise therapy, while the function and pain are better in the patients treated with the Regenexx protocol.

The upshot? Utilizing your body's own healing mechanisms to alleviate your shoulder pain and treat a rotator cuff tear is a promising alternative to surgery. The Regenexx stem cell shoulder treatment is a unique and patented same-day stem cell procedure.

  To find out if you might be a candidate for a Regenexx stem cell procedure, complete our Regenexx Procedure Candidate Form online.    

  1. shoulder
  2. shoulder rotator cuff
  3. surgery

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