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​How Stem Cell Injections Can Help Common Golf Injuries

Posted at 9:22 AM on May 1, 2019


When retired pro golfer Jack Nicklaus was 76 years old, his lifelong back pain had become so severe that he couldn't hit a single golf ball. He couldn't even stand for more than 10 minutes.

Then he met Dr. Eckhard Alt, a German physician who had developed a stem cell injection treatment. By the time he returned from Dr. Alt's clinic in Munich, where he underwent the outpatient procedure, Nicklaus was able to stand for as long as he desired. He's now back on the golf course, playing full courses pain-free.

Treatments for Golf Injuries

If you have sore knees or a sore back from golf, you've probably done some research into potential treatments. You've discovered that gentle stretching and aerobic exercise can help some people with low back pain manage their discomfort and stay on the golf course. You may have also heard people suggest accommodations like a golf cart to get from hole to hole.

And that's all well and good for people with mild back pain, but what about when your discomfort gets too intense for you to even swing a club anymore? It's a problem that's becoming increasingly common.

Sore Back, Sore Knees and Golf

Many pros believe that overuse injuries, especially back pain, are worse in today's golfers than they've ever been before. For former prodigy Philip Francis, debilitating back pain struck when he was still in his mid-20s.

According to Golf magazine, Francis began intensifying his practice sessions to increase the distance of his swing. This meant hours of rapid spinal rotation in a tilted position. In 2012, he tore two intervertebral discs.

The list of top golfers is full of such stories, many of which end in either surgery or chronic pain. Needless to say, for many golfers, neither outcome is acceptable.

Stem Cells Treatments for Golfers – A Non-Surgical Alternative

It's understandable that many golfers are looking to avoid surgery. The recovery period for spinal procedures can be up to four months and even up to six months for older patients. With knee surgery, patients can be out of commission for weeks to months before they can be fully active again.

Stem cell therapy has the potential to get you back on the golf course faster, and it's less invasive.

But first, what are stem cells?

Stem cells are the powerhouses behind tissue repair in the human body. They can:

  1. Locate damaged tissue
  2. Initiate tissue repair and regeneration
  3. Replace cells that are damaged or dying

In recent years, medical science has learned how to collect stem cells and deposit them where tissue damage is causing discomfort.

What are stem cell treatments?

When they're not doing their job, stem cells can be found in “storage” throughout the body. Stem cell treatments allow doctors to harvest them and introduce them where they're needed.

First, a specially trained and qualified physician withdraws the stem cells from the patient's bone marrow while the patient is under local anesthesia. Doctors usually take the necessary stem cells from the pelvic bone, which is typically the easiest and most painless harvesting site.

Then the harvested stem cells go into a centrifuge, which spins at extremely high speeds to separate the stem cells from the rest of the marrow. The separated stem cells go into a syringe that the physician will use to perform the procedure.

The doctor injects the stem cells into the damaged joint. For back pain, this involves the facet joint between the two vertebrae. Technically, these are known as intradiscal stem cell treatments, but the methodology is similar when treating knees or other joint tissue.

A qualified physician will always use a real-time X-ray technique known as fluoroscopy to guide the injection. This is an essential step for maintaining the safety of the patient.

How Do Stem Cell Treatments Work?

Mesenchymal stem cells, the kind of cells used in stem cell treatments, are known for their ability to develop into more than one cell type. In plain English, that means that even though your doctor will take the necessary stem cells from your pelvis, they'll develop into the kinds of cells that are needed at the injection site.

Stem cells are also known as chemotactic facilitators, meaning that they jumpstart the healing and regenerative properties of other cells in the damaged area. As these cells and the stem cells go to work rebuilding new tissue, the stem cells reduce inflammation in the damaged tissue.

What are the results?

Studies have shown that patients who undergo intradiscal stem cell treatments experience noticeable improvements in pain levels and that those results are still present a year after the treatment. Research also indicates cell growth and increased height in the intervertebral disc following treatment.

The end effect could be that you’ll recover the golf swing you thought you'd lost. You could find yourself walking the course comfortably, saying no to the golf cart for the first time in years.

Stem cell treatment does not work for everyone. Some studies have shown it to be a helpful treatment. However, at this time, the FDA has not approved it as a treatment for musculoskeletal conditions.

Finding Stem Cell Treatment

Stem cell therapy offers a new option to people with golf injuries who had assumed for months or years that surgery would be their only option.

With so much potential in this development, it's no wonder that stem cell treatment centers are cropping up across the country. There's probably more than one in your nearest city, but be cautious. Not all centers are equally safe.

If you're looking for stem cell injections in Minnesota, for example, you can find offers for all kinds of conditions. Many claim that they can heal your back pain by injecting your muscles or ligaments. Don’t be fooled. It isn’t actually possible to heal disc problems this way.

At Twin Cities Pain and Regenerative Medicine, all of our stem cell doctors are specially trained. We’re very clear about the methods that we use. Only the safest techniques are acceptable to us. We'll explain everything to you in words you'll understand, and do our best to get you back out on the course and swinging to your heart's content.