You’ve done your research regarding stem cell therapy and are looking forward to improved health and quality of life after the procedure. While every case is different, here’s a sneak peek at what you might expect in the weeks and months after your stem cell treatment.
Immediately After the Procedure
It is imperative that you adhere to your doctor’s post-op procedure restrictions. For the best chance of long-lasting benefits, avoid anti-inflammatory medications, rest the treated area for the first 24 – 48 hours, and start physical therapy as soon as the doctor gives you the “all clear.” Expect varying levels of pain the first day or two after the stem cell treatment, although the pain should decrease over time.
Weeks 1 and 2
There may be noticeable inflammation in the treated area, which is normal as your immune system gets to work. The rush of white blood cells and substances produced by the body create swelling in the area, which sets the stage for the stem cells’ regenerative healing of damaged tissue in the area.
After you have rested the treated area for an amount of time indicated by your doctor, light, easy movement may be advised – but let any pain or discomfort you feel be your guide. For example, you may want to avoid too many trips up and down stairs (especially if you have had hip or knee injections) and keep lifting to a minimum (especially if you have had rotator cuff or shoulder injections). Some walking can be helpful to minimize soreness for spinal patients.
Muscle soreness and spasms can be managed with heat (hot shower, heating pad), and inflammation with ice. But not too much: if your pain threshold is high, ease back on the thermal applications as you may be hurting yourself without knowing it. Now is not the time to be Superman.
Because stem cells do not function optimally in the presence of anti-inflammatory medication, you should discontinue or avoid taking any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen), as well as any natural remedies or over-the-counter supplements such as turmeric, arnica, or others that boast of having anti-inflammatory properties.
Kinesiology tape or other types of medications may also help manage your pain. Speak to your doctor about which types may be appropriate for you.
Weeks 3 and 4
After a few weeks, your doctor or physical therapist may recommend you start a nonimpact, range of motion exercise regime that may include using an elliptical machine, gentle walking, or jogging in the pool. To reiterate, the key here is nonimpact, which gives the new stem cells time to develop into the specialized cells needed to heal the area. Whatever you do, don’t overdo it. Healing is a marathon and not a sprint.
Weeks 5 and 6
By weeks 5 and 6, you may be ready for a challenge. If that is the case, table that thought for now. While you may be able to increase resistance with light weights or add time on the elliptical machine, you still must proceed with caution. Your stem cells are building new tissue and need oxygen and blood flow through gentle exercise but shouldn’t be overstressed. You may seek to expand your physical therapy regime with gentle stretching, yoga or Pilates, but avoid any sort of compressive exercise, such as leg lifts, twisting, squat thrusts, calf raises, etc.
Weeks 7 and 8
Over time, you may be able to add aerobic activity to your regime without risk of injuring the maturing stem cells. Still, cease activity if there is pain in the treated area. Continue to use heat and ice for pain and inflammation as needed.
Months 3 through 6
By months 3 through 6, stem cells are at their peak of healing potential; let them do their job by not overstressing them. Continue to strengthen your joints by walking, biking, stretching, etc., but continue to use caution when hitting the gym or exerting yourself around the house.
Communication is Key
For most patients, stem cell therapy is uncharted territory, providing a whole new experience of healing and recovery than with surgery. It’s OK to ask lots of questions before and after the procedure.
If working with a physical therapist, make sure they are familiar with the post-op protocols of stem cell procedures. In this case, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander, as some very common and otherwise effective exercises could damage the treated area.
Most importantly, talk with your doctor. You already have made an important decision to use stem cell therapy to improve your health and quality of life. At National Stem Cell Centers, you can discuss the benefits of stem cell therapy with a board-certified surgeon.
National Stem Cell Centers has two convenient locations in the New York area, in Manhattan and on Long Island. Call the New York office at (646) 448-0427, or (516) 403-1457 for Long Island, to find out if you are a good candidate for stem cell therapy, and to schedule your free consultation.