What does Physical Therapy Look Like Following Stem Cell Surgery?



I hope you caught the blog earlier this month highlighting Dr. Mark Wagner of Seattle Sports & Regenerative Medicine. If you didn’t, please take a moment to read that before reading this one.


So, you recently had stem cell therapy and you may now be asking yourself, what do I do next? Well, my goal with this blog is to cover what your PT will be like following that procedure.


Upon completion there are a few things you need to be aware of to help the procedure be successful over the first 6 weeks. The first thing is no anti-inflammatory medications as it restricts the STEM cells growth and the effectiveness of the procedure. To help manage any pain Tylenol is recommended. The next one is no heat directly to the joint where the procedure occurred. It recommended that you utilize ice to manage pain and any inflammation. Last, alcohol intake should be limited to 1-2 a week or not at all, an over indulgent in alcohol can increase inflammation and also reduce STEM cell growth.

You are now 5 days post your procedure; you have hit the “magic” time to begin physical therapy. During the first four weeks of your therapy, it is more range of motion driven focusing on improving lost motion due the procedure, additionally all strength activities are bodyweight focused, as the goal is to regain muscle recruitment that had been affected prior to the procedure or was lost after the procedure. At Rehab United Seattle this is typically where we introduce blood flow restriction (BFR) training when applicable. This treatment promotes increased blood flow to the joint and STEM Cells. BFR training will create an artificial high intensity environment for your muscles without the need of utilizing heavy weights. By using BFR training and not heavy weights is reduce the stress on the joint that had the procedure, and helps to reduce muscle atrophy and wasting that has occurred due to previous disuse.


At week five the intensity of load of your activity and exercises will increase, and light jogging can be reintroduced for those that had a lower extremity procedure. Full return to running is not advised till 3 months post your procedure. For those individuals that had an upper extremity procedure, push-ups on the floor in modified positions can start to be re-introduce around week five. The goal over the next weeks and months is to regain as much motion as possible, build up strength that was lost due to disuse, and return to as many of your activities of daily living as possible pain free.


At my clinic I have seen STEM Cell procedures be a very effective and a great alternative to those trying to avoid surgery. In some cases, the recovery time can be just as long as a surgery; but from the PT side I have found patients to have less restrictions placed on them, and return to many of their activities they love sooner than if they would’ve have elected for surgery.


I hope you have found this blog series insightful and educational. Over the next few months I hope to bring you more blogs like this highlighting physicians we work with at Rehab United Seattle.


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