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Stem Cell Injections for Foot and Ankle Injuries

Soft tissue injuries including ligament and tendons represent up to 45% of all musculoskeletal injuries. Sports and overuse injuries may require surgery and lengthy recovery. Osteoarthritis is a painful degenerative condition. Chronic and degenerative musculoskeletal conditions are difficult to treat effectively, and treatment and recovery can compromise quality of life for long periods.

Management of foot and ankle pain involves conservative measures like over-the-counter pain medicine, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections and physical therapy. When this fails, surgery is the best option. But even surgery may not provide effective relief partly due to the low quality of tendon healing.

Generally, foot and ankle injuries tend to heal slowly and often require lengthy rehabilitation to achieve pain-free function. Stem cell therapy is a promising option to accelerate healing, regenerate tissues and provide long lasting pain relief. It is an important choice to aid in the repair of soft tissue damage in the foot and ankle. Stem cell therapy may reduce the need for extensive physical therapy and rehabilitation, usually needed after surgery or an injury.

Stem cell injections are a regenerative treatment that employs stem cells taken from a patient, treated and transplanted back into the patient, to help repair or replace damaged or diseased tissues.

Stem cells are special cells that have the ability to develop into different types of cells. They can divide to form new cells such as muscle cells, nerve and blood vessel cells, new cartilage cells, and decrease inflammation. This makes them useful for repairing and regenerating damaged tissues.

In the case of foot and ankle injuries, stem cell treatment may be used to repair damaged cartilage, tendons or ligaments, or to stimulate the growth of new bone tissue which can lead to improved joint function and reduced pain.

The stem cell procedure involves the following steps:

  1. Harvesting adult stem cells: A small amount of bone marrow is aspirated from the patient’s hip in a minor and minimally invasive procedure.
  2. Processing stem cells: The harvested stem cells are processed in a lab to isolate and concentrate them and remove any impurities.
  3. Injecting stem cells: The concentrated stem cells are injected into the damaged foot and ankle tissues, either directly or via a minimally invasive procedure. The stem cells begin to differentiate into the type of cells needed to repair or regenerate the damaged tissue.
  4. Common side effects: Common side effects are temporary swelling and pain.
  5. Recovery: Most patients experience minor or no discomfort and can return to normal daily life within a few days.

Stem cell injections aid in the repair of damaged tissues, reduce inflammation and relieve pain important in healing foot and ankle injuries and conditions.

  • Osteoarthritis: Ankle osteoarthritis is a common, chronic, debilitating degenerative joint disorder that can affect the foot and ankle leading to pain and dysfunction and is a leading cause of disability in the elderly population.  Treatment is designed to improve symptoms and function and may slow progression of the degenerative process. Stem cell therapy may be employed to regenerate the damaged cartilage in the joint and reduce inflammation, and ultimately restore a healthy joint. It may also be beneficial to regenerate cartilage damaged due to injury.
  • Achilles Tendon Injuries: The Achilles tendon is associate with overuse and is characterized by a cumulative tissue microtraumas, common in athletes. This tendon has a poor blood supply. Stem cells might provide a safe and effective aid in the healing process of this tendon by promoting tissue regeneration.
  • Plantar Fasciitis: One in ten people will experience plantar fasciitis during their lifetime. It is a common cause of heel pain, often due to overuse or strain on the plantar fascia. There is a lack of effective surgical options. Stem cell injections could potentially help in reducing inflammation and aiding tissue repair.
  • Ankle Sprains: While mild sprains usually heal with rest and physical therapy, severe sprains or chronic ankle instability might benefit from stem cell treatments to promote ligament healing and strength.
  • Tendonitis: Inflammation of tendons in the foot and ankle, such as peroneal tendonitis, might benefit from stem cell treatments to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
  • Diabetic Foot: Diabetic foot is one of the most severe complications of diabetes and seriously affects quality of life. Stem cell injections have shown the ability to promote repair of damaged blood vessels and nerves.

The timeline for seeing full improvements after stem cell therapy for foot and ankle injuries can vary depending on several factors, such as the severity of the injury, and the individual patient’s response to the treatment. It is also important to note that the full benefits of stem cell therapy may not be seen for several months after the procedure.

In general, some patients may start to see improvements within a few weeks to a few months after the procedure. For example, patients with foot and ankle osteoarthritis may experience a reduction in pain and improved mobility within the first few months after stem cell therapy. However, it may take several months for the stem cells to fully integrate into the damaged tissue and promote the growth of new tissue.

When you or a loved one is suffering with a foot and ankle injury, you have options. Contact the team at LALL Orthopedics + to schedule a consultation to receive the correct diagnosis and all your treatment options. We have office in Belvidere, Illinois, Paramus, New Jersey and Philadelphia, PA.

At a Glance

Ajay C. Lall, MD, MS, FAAOS

  • Board Certified – Orthopedic Surgery
  • Triple Fellowship Trained
  • Performs over 750 Surgeries Per Year
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