Your heel hurts! It hurts with the first steps out of bed, when you get up from a chair, and when you walk too long. I gave you advice on stretching, ice, and prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication. Often times we have to support that unstable arch of yours using custom foot orthoses. What if your pain is still there? Injecting steroids in the painful area, extracorporeal shock wave therapy, or even surgery are the traditional options remaining. But what about stem cells?
The sensationalism of advertising and the media would lead you to believe that there are stem cells available for treatment of just about anything. Is this true? Lets look at some options:
- PRP (platelet rich plasma): Blood is taken from a vein and spun in a centrifuge to separate the components. One component would be the platelets and anything else that was relatively heavy circulating in your blood. Would this include stem cells? Most likely not! The platelets contain growth factors which promote healing. Injecting PRP into your heel would result in a time-release of numerous growth factors that could heal the inflammation that is your plantar fasciitis, thus making you feel better.
- Amniotic membrane derived products: The amniotic membrane protects and covers a growing baby while inside the mother. The placenta is part of this marvelous structure and is delivered with the baby in normal, healthy childbirth. For this reason there is no controversy about using the placenta, as it would only be discarded if not used. Placenta blood has long been known to contain stem cells used to treat leukemia and other illnesses. Scientific studies have shown that there are cells very similar to stem cells in the placenta. If you inject cells that were taken from a placenta, your body would not reject them because they are so immature. Injecting the stem cells into an area of inflammation would in theory be able to heal the structure that is damaged or inflamed. It has yet to be proven, but seems very promising that injecting these amnion derived products into your heel would completely resolve your plantar fasciitis.
- Bone marrow: Time tested and proven, the bone marrow is the ultimate source of stem cells. Unfortunately this requires a surgical procedure that can be painful and quite expensive. This is probably not a reality in treating heel pain.
Now here is the kicker. Because the scientific literature is not complete regarding using stem cells to treat plantar fasciitis, these treatments are not covered by your insurance. That means you would have to pay for them. These treatments are so new that not all physicians can provide them. At Desert Foot Surgeons, we continue to advance as treatments become available. If you have heel pain that has not responded to treatment, stem cells may be an option for you.