Stem cell therapy vs. joint replacement

It is important to understand what stem cell therapy and joint replacement treat, because theoretically, in orthopedics, it should be the same thing.

Say you’re experiencing pain in your knee joint. If you visit a doctor, and they tell you you are “bone on bone”, it means that you’ve worn out your meniscus, which is the leathery pad between the two bones in your knee. If you are told that you “have to have” a knee replacement then the meniscus is not the source of your pain. What’s happening is that you no longer have the cushion of the meniscus, which is why it looks like the bones are touching. The real source of your pain is that the hyaline cartilage or the hard, teflon-like surface that protects the bone underneath has worn down in spots. This is the same hard cartilage you will see on the tip of a chicken bone, underneath, bones have nerve endings and blood vessels. The wear and tear that causes the meniscus to thin out also causes the hard teflon like coating to thin out and potholes appear in the hyaline cartilage. Now, when pressure is put on the joint, it hurts because there essentially “potholes in the chicken bone cartilage” and it is this pain that triggers proteins called cytokines to cause inflammation, swelling, tightness, and pain associated with arthritis.

If you perform an MRI on a sample of patients over 60, they are all going to have a tear or some sort of damage to their meniscus – it is a common consequence of aging. But unless that tear is mechanically flip-flopping and getting stuck like a rock in your shoe, it’s not a mechanical problem and is not likely causing your pain. The cause of arthritic pain is actually “chondromalacia” or the “potholes in the chicken bone cartilage”.

Arthroscopy can treat tears, because it is a procedure where instruments are inserted that can cut and shave pieces that are getting stuck. However, arthroscopy can’t treat potholes in damaged cartilage – you can’t cut and shave a pothole.

So the only other treatment option in the orthopedic surgery “tool box” is to cut out and replace the entire joint, thus removing the painful nerve endings. That’s why, if you’re bone on bone, you have to have a knee replacement. Because, if there is no space, then your meniscus is worn out and there is nothing mechanically that can be getting stuck causing your pain. The only thing left that can cause your pain would be “chondromalacia” the medical term for (the potholes in your hyaline or chicken bone cartilage) and the only orthopedic surgery treatment for this is to remove the nerves causing this pain by cutting out the whole joint.

The idea behind stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine is to heal those potholes and protect the nerves underneath in the bone. If you can heal those potholes and protect the nerve endings, you are accomplishing the same thing as a joint replacement, stop the pain and improve function.

That’s where regenerative medicine has an advantage over joint replacement. AROmotion combines different medical technologies to heal the injured joint cartilage and protect the nerves causing arthritic pain, rather than cutting out the joint to remove these exposed nerve endings.