What success looks like for a young patient after regenerative medicine

Authored by: Dr. Niteesh Bharara

Ben B. was just 25 years old when he started having pain in his left shoulder. He was a really active guy who loved to bike and go to the gym but his pain was bad and he knew he needed help. He went for physical therapy three different times over the next three years but it didn’t reduce his pain. He saw several doctors too. An orthopedist told him he had a slap tear and needed surgery. He went for a second opinion and that doctor told him he was too young for the surgery and wasn’t a good candidate for it. 

By 2020, he was frustrated and still very much in pain. “I felt stagnant,” Ben told me. “I just wasn’t seeing a lot of progress.” So – he started Googling options. That led him to regenerative medicine and eventually to me. 

I first saw him in September 2020 and agreed he wasn’t a good candidate for surgery. I wasn’t even sure a slap tear was his issue. We tried prolotherapy as a non-surgical way to deal with his shoulder instability. He had two rounds over about a month and at first he thought his shoulder was getting even more unstable. But when we did an MRI to take a look, the radiologist didn’t see any signs of a slap tear at all. His shoulder looked better than it had in years. But he was still in pain. 

So in January, we did a platelet-rich plasma or PRP injection. PRP is a substance harvested from a patient’s bloodstream in a process similar to donating blood to the Red Cross. Once the blood is collected, it is prepared in a centrifuge which spins the blood quickly to separate it into its various components. PRP is the component of the blood that contains specific growth factors that are associated with tissue healing. This substance can then be injected into a damaged disc to try and stimulate existing cells to have a healing response.

After his PRP injection, Ben finally started to see real progress after about 2 months. Today he has no real pain and is so much stronger. Ben says he’s back to being his active self, he’s lifting at the gym three times a week and has put on some weight, which he was hoping to do. 

“A year ago I wouldn’t have felt confident even doing one push-up, thinking my shoulder just wasn’t strong enough for that,” Ben says. “But now I can do 50 or 60 in the gym. I’m biking again and doing yoga. I’m happy now. If I ever get a little twinge or soreness, all I have to do to fix it is get a massage.”

Ben’s one of many success stories with regenerative medicine and we have data to back that up. We recently conducted a study at VSI of 32 patients with clinically diagnosed low back pain who received one stem cell injection. One year later, 59.4% of patients saw a clinically significant improvement in back pain, 43.8% had improvements in leg pain and improvements were evident on their MRIs too. 

Lessons about Regenerative Medicine

I asked Ben what lessons he thinks are important to pass along after his experience with stem cell therapy and he has three pieces of advice for other patients – 

  1. Seek out a 2nd opinion. It’s worth investigating regenerative medicine options to see if they can help you avoid surgery. 
  2. Be patient. Regenerative medicine works – but it doesn’t happen overnight. You notice progress and reduced pain over time. 
  3. Stay open-minded when it comes to solutions. There’s been so much innovation in the world of medicine. Investigate new treatments and solutions to see if they might be for you. 

Dr. Niteesh Bharara is a world-renowned, double board certified orthopedic physician specializing in non-surgical sports medicine. He serves as the Director of Regenerative Medicine at Virginia Spine Institute and leads the Mid-Atlantic region in performing effective natural therapies such as stem cell therapy, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), prolotherapy, and adipose injections. Dr. Bharara’s distinguished expertise within this field earned him 2022 Face of Regenerative Medicine, and Top Doctor recognition in consecutive years. Learn more about Dr. Bharara.

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