Regenerative injection therapies help alleviate the pain associated with all sorts of common conditions. But any skeptic will look at the mounting evidence and claim that pain level is subjective and vulnerable to the placebo effect– “where is the hard evidence?” Rotator cuff tears provide a concrete example of the efficacy of adipose derived stem cell therapy: There is a tear prior to the treatment and 6 months later the tear is reduced or gone completely.
The “rotator cuff” refers to 4 distinct tendons that attach stabilizing muscles to the top of the arm bone (head of the humerus). These 4 tendons attach on the front, top and back of the shoulder joint. Injury can be acute (all at once) or chronic (slow over a long period of time) and can occur to any of the tendons but most commonly occur in the one on top (supraspinatus).
Rotator Cuff Tears Don’t Heal Spontaneously
Rotator cuff tears do not tend to heal on their own. They tend to slowly get worse over time until a full rupture occurs, then the muscle atrophies and turns to fat from disuse. There are rare cases where someone will have a full rupture and no pain because it happened slowly and they have been able to compensate for it, but generally a rotator cuff tear is very painful and limits even simple tasks like carrying groceries.
Stem Cells From Your Fat Can Heal
In comes your own fat tissue to save the day. Preliminary studies, and our experience with patients at Oregon Regenerative Medicine, indicate that adipose derived stem cell therapy is a viable way of healing partial tears and preventing full rupture. In a study of 20 patients, 6 months after adipose injection, tears had healed between 83% and 90%. Shoulder function also improved and pain level went down significantly. This cannot be explained by placebo.
Non-Surgical Solution for Tears
At Oregon Regenerative Medicine, we see this play out clinically all the time. Partial tears are seen on our ultrasound exam, we do an adipose procedure to inject mesenchymal stem cells into the tear, then on follow up the tear is no longer there. It doesn’t happen overnight and takes many months along with rehab, but healing occurs and no surgery is needed.
This is a massive breakthrough in the care of shoulder injuries. It is not widely accepted and there is much work to be done in replicating these results. But the proof is there and for those that don’t want to wait around for the medical establishment to get insurance to cover this procedure, come see the doctors at Oregon Regenerative Medicine. This is the future of medicine.
Jo CH, Chai JW, Jeong EC, et al. Intratendinous injection of autologous adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells for the treatment of rotator cuff disease: a first-in-human trial. Stem Cells. 2018;36(9):1441-1450.