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

by Chris Centeno, MD /

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.

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11 thoughts on “5 Compelling Reasons to Consider a Stem Cell Shoulder Treatment Instead of Surgery

  1. María Elisabeth Mussenden

    I wonder…. regarding this poor correlation between the clinical findings in MRI’s, etc. and the actual reports and clinical assessment of patients, in regards to pain, and mobility etc. I wonder, how neural cells interact with all of this? And this is as the tissues wear down from pathology, aging, etc., and then when they regenerate…. does this happen in a coordinated fashion? The same way in every individual? I wonder, when patients complain of pain, despite improved MRI findings, is that the neural cells have been slower to integrate to the newly regenerated tissue….. Similar to what happens with hyper-sensitive teeth…. there might be good enamel, but still the tooth nerves gets sensitive……. And probably, each human being’s process of integrating the regeneration, and the neural endings, etc., which are the ones to address sensation, follow movement commands by the brain, propioception, etc. is processed differently, at different/ individual speeds. In other words, the rate of integration happens at different rates of speed for different individuals. And this is something that probably the MRI cannot capture!

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Maria,
      All good thoughts. People do heal at different rates based on many different parameters. This explains more: http://www.regenexx.com/blog/osteoarthritis-pain-not-related-to-structure-again/, as does this: http://www.regenexx.com/stem-cell-cartilage-regeneration/

  2. María Elisabeth Mussenden

    I would like for you to make hard copies of your books! I can’t see any of those available!

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Maria,
      They’re not available for purchase, though we do usually have hard copies in the Clinic. They were written as ebooks so that they would be accessible anywhere you go.

  3. Bob Dannals

    I have been diagnosed with fairly severe arthritis in my right shoulder … “bone on bone” … Like unto my left; I had full shoulder replacement surgery 9 months ago. It looks like I will be heading to the same surger on my right. Please tell me where I can read the true results of stem cell therapy for my condition and the estimated costs.
    Thanks.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Bob,
      On our website, you’ll find an outcome section on the menu. There you’ll find the outcomes for all joints including shoulders. Cost depends on what’s needed in each individual case. If you would like to see if you would be a Candidate, please submit the Candidate form. http://www.regenexx.com

  4. Brett Smith

    I have a friend who has a reacuring dislocation shoulder problem would stem cells fix this

    1. Chris Centeno Post author

      We would have to take a look at the images and perform an exam to be certain, but yes, we have treated many patients with recurring dislocations of the shoulder.

    2. Regenexx Team

      Hi Brett,
      Not “stem cells” in general but the correct type of stem cells in the correct type of precise image guided procedure could likely help. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/shoulder-dislocation-surgery-recovery-time/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/watch-advanced-image-guided-injection-shoulder-step-procedure-suite-dr-schultz/ and https://regenexx.com/conditions-treated/shoulder/ If your friend would like to learn more about how to fix the problem without surgery and see if their particular situation would be a Candidate, please tell them to contact us here, or call 855 622 7838, or submit the Candidate form here: http://www.regenexx.com

  5. Janet S Benoit

    Would having a blood disorder (Essential thrombocythemia) with a now near normal platelets be a detterent to having this procedure? Being on a chemo type drug for it (Hydroxyurea) ? Does age have any bearings on the outcome?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Janet,
      It’s unknown. We’d need more information through a Candidacy review which includes a full medical history, to evaluate.

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

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.
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