Skiing with Knee Arthritis: Can Stem Cells Help?

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Is skiing with knee arthritis possible? Severe knee arthritis is a tough problem. The cartilage is all gone and bone spurs have taken over. Can stem cells get patients back on their skis?

When we first began stem cell injections for arthritis a decade ago, we figured that the severity of the knee arthritis would determine outcome. As a result, we turned countless patients away who had more severe arthritis, figuring they had lower chances of success. However, as we tracked the outcomes of more and more patients in our registry, we noticed that the severe arthritis patients who had slipped through and wanted stem cells injected despite being told they weren’t good candidates, seemed to do as well as those patients with moderate or mild arthritis. Why?

The mechanism behind why stem cells seem to work in severe arthritis patients spans the gamut of various theories. First, what’s not happening is huge amounts of cartilage regrowth leaving the patient with a new knee. One theory is that the stem cells deactivate rouge macrophages that are eating away cartilage. Another is that the stem cells give their good batteries (mitochondria) to worn out cells. Yet another is that the stem cells produce on their own or cause other cells to produce chemicals that help the joint.

Case in point is Heather. She’s an active woman with severe knee arthritis and all that comes with that diagnosis: no cartilage, chewed up mensicus tissue, and loose ligaments. She was seen for a Regenexx-AD procedure in 2012, had some touch up platelet work in 2013, and a repeat Regenexx-SD procedure in November of 2014. She recently sent Dr. Schultz this note:

“Dear Dr. Schultz,

We’ve cross country skiied (in NY and Vermont) every weekend since January 10th, through today March 1st.  I ski with the braces and the knees are doing very well.

Have to admit that it would be nice for it all to melt soon, but it’s hard to complain about six more inches of powder today.  Thank you!

Heather Struck

The upshot? Here’s a woman with severe knee arthritis that’s cross country skiing! In our experience, that diagnosis no longer has to mean knee replacement.

Learn about Regenexx procedures for knee conditions.
Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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