In 2018 I had a patient come to see me in my clinic. This patient was very special because she is the sister of a close friend. Her story isn’t unique but it is quite remarkable. She first started having pain in her shoulder and arm two years before she first saw me. She is a mother and was holding her almost two-year-old child in her arms. As children will do, the child pushed off the legs and actually became separated from the mother’s body. Being intuitive as parents are, she quickly was able to catch her child before the child crashed to the ground. Catastrophe averted, or so she thought.
What the future patient of mine came to find out is that by catching her baby one-handed in the manner she did, she actually tore some of the rotator cuff muscles, inflamed her subacromial bursa, and created a tear in her labrum. It wasn’t long before the pain was rather intense if she tried to use her arm. To keep the pain away, she kept her affected arm relatively still most of the time which then caused her to lose a significant amount of her range of motion. By the time that she saw me, she wasn’t able to lift her arm over her head without great difficulty and pain.
My friend had explained to her that I use regenerative medicines to treat these ailments. She looked for doctors in her area that could do the same treatments as I but what she found was those able to perform the procedure, would also cost her several thousand dollars. The costs with my clinic were nowhere near that amount. For less cost than she would pay in her home state, she could fly to Phoenix and back, have a long weekend with her brother and her nieces, and have the procedure done by me. This is ultimately what she decided to do.
She had an MRI that I could review on her new patient visit. At that visit, we also did a musculoskeletal ultrasound (more on this topic in future posts) to evaluate the shoulder in real-time and with specific aspects of her shoulder stretched to see fine tears that often MRIs miss. What we saw on the MRI was an inflamed subacromial bursa, partially torn supraspinatus tendon, tendinosis of the infraspinatus tendon, and grade 2-3 chondromalacia of the coracoacromial arch. We discussed options that included cortisone injections to take away the inflammation and pain vs regenerative medicine which would also decrease the pain but could also help to fill in the tears and reverse the chondromalacia in her shoulder.
The injection was painless and 3 mL of mesenchymal stem cells plus a small amount of Lidocaine were injected and distributed to all the affected areas using ultrasound guidance. She left the facility and returned to her brother’s house. I called later that night to see how she was doing, my friend was busy with family and didn’t answer but he did text me a picture of his sister touching a ceiling fan with her previously bad arm. He told me that she hasn’t been able to do that in two years. That story is great by itself but as the infomercials say, but wait, there’s more. I have continued to be in touch with this patient and she still has 100% pain relief today, nearly 3 years after the injection. This is the power of regenerative medicine, to not only help with the pain but to heal the damaged area so that pain generated is corrected.