Double Jointed

Stem cell therapy relieves lower back, knee pain.

Some people know early in life what they want to do for a career, and they follow clear paths to reach their goals. That wasn’t the case for Geraldine Duez. Her path wasn’t clear. For years, Geraldine worked in various capacities before finally finding her calling as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Geraldine Duez

“I started out working as a beautician and did that for a while,” Geraldine relates. “Then, I went to work in a factory and from there to working in an office, which I did for a few years. After that, I started my career as a CNA and worked in nursing for twenty years. I even did private care for a while. I retired as a CNA in 2015.

“I initially became a CNA because I knew there were jobs in that field. There’s always a need for nursing care. But I really enjoyed working in nursing because I got to know a lot of people, and I liked making patients happy.”

Geraldine hails from the Bluegrass State of Kentucky, but she and her husband moved north to Ohio after they were married. Eventually, the couple headed south to the temperate climate of the Sunshine State.

“After I married my husband, we lived in Toledo,” Geraldine confirms. “In 1997, we decided to move to Florida and get jobs down here. We continued to work in Florida until we were ready to retire.”

Retirement suited Geraldine, but she soon became hampered in her favorite activities, including working in her yard, by intense pain in her lower back and leg. The pain, her doctor told her, was the result of sciatica, a pinching of the spinal nerves supplying the legs by degenerated discs.

“The pain started on the left side of my lower spine and ran down my left leg,” Geraldine describes. “It really hurt. Sometimes, the pain started up when I was driving and made it hard to drive because it hurt so bad.

“I eventually had an MRI done in Port Charlotte, and it showed a lot of narrowing on the left side of my spine. The pain it caused was off and on, but it bothered me enough that I knew I had to get rid of it.”

Matters got worse for Geraldine before they got better, however. Over time, her troubling back pain was compounded by excruciating pain in her left knee.

“There was a burning pain on the left side of my knee,” she states. “At times, the pain was a nine on a scale of one to ten. Occasionally, it hurt at the bottom of that knee as well, but that pain occurred at different times. It wasn’t constant.

“Sometimes, my knee was unstable. I was afraid I might go down because it felt like my knee wasn’t going to hold me up. It usually held, but the feeling it might not was scary.”

Living with terrible back and knee pain took all of Geraldine’s energy. She finally accepted that she required a doctor’s care in order to find real relief, but she didn’t know where to turn. That changed when she picked up a copy of Florida Health Care News one day and read about Erick A. Grana, MD, of Regenerative Orthopedic Institute in Tampa.

“I read the article in the newspaper about Dr. Grana and his treatment and thought, Maybe he could help me,” Geraldine remembers. “When Dr. Grana reviewed my MRI, he said my back was pretty bad, but he could treat me with his procedure.
“I thought I might as well have my back and knee treated at the same time. Dr. Grana told me he would give me a discount to have both done, and I always like a deal.”

Natural Process

“Geraldine’s sciatica and knee pain were the result of degenerative arthritis,” Dr. Grana reports. “She was looking for a way to relieve her pain without resorting to surgery or heavy pain medications. She wanted a more natural way to ease the pain and manage the underlying arthritis.”

To address conditions like Geraldine’s, Dr. Grana uses regenerative medicine, which treats patients with a nonsurgical technique called stem cell therapy. This therapy uses the patient’s own specialized stem cells to promote the growth of new tissue in joints ravaged by arthritis or injury.

“Regenerative medicine treats disease and injuries by harnessing the body’s own healing powers,’’ Dr. Grana informs. “The natural healing process is accelerated by a combination of growth factors and bioactive cells in the form of stem cells and platelet-rich plasma (PRP).

“Stem cells are the body’s natural repair cells and are capable of healing and repairing tissue. They are also highly anti-inflammatory and release many growth factors within the joints that stimulate healing and repair.”

Stem cells are not assigned to be a specific type of cell. When placed in an area and stimulated appropriately, stem cells can develop as cells of that area, replacing the worn out or damaged tissue there. In joints, for example, stem cells can become cartilage cells and rebuild that deteriorated tissue. That’s the essence of regenerative medicine.

“About two weeks after the injections, I started to feel better. I had a lot of energy, and I was able to do all sorts of projects.” – Geraldine

Platelets are specialized cells found in blood. They are the cells responsible for clotting at the site of an injury, and they contain many healing substances and growth factors that can stimulate and assist stem cells in their regenerative activity.

“The process of using stem cells and PRP results in a safe, effective treatment,” Dr. Grana assures. “And unlike traditional surgery, which can result in blood loss, scarring and long, painful recovery periods, stem cell therapy requires only injections into the damaged joint.

“It also offers a much quicker recovery than surgery. Typically, patients begin to feel a noticeable decrease in pain after six weeks.”

Stem cell therapy is autologous, meaning it utilizes stem cells, PRP and growth factors taken from the patient’s own body. Using the patient’s own cells eliminates the chances of reactive side effects or rejection.

Dr. Grana extracts stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow or fat, while the PRP is taken from the patient’s own blood. After the stem cells are harvested, they are separated through a centrifuge and injected into the painful area to stimulate the regeneration of damaged tissue and the healing of tendons, ligaments, joints or spinal discs.

“When I was first introduced to stem cell therapy, I recognized its tremendous potential for patients who would otherwise have limited treatment options for pain relief,” Dr. Grana notes. “Patients with osteoarthritis, in particular, have very few choices other than surgery when the condition advances and damages the joint.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Geraldine, an active gardener, is reaping the benefits of her stem cell therapy.

“Surgery has potential complications, so when we treat arthritic joints without surgery, patients do much better. Not only can we relieve the patient’s pain, but we can also reverse some of the damage done by the osteoarthritis. This is accomplished by regenerating the cartilage and connective tissues in and around the joint area.”

Dr. Grana has developed a system for the delivery of stem cells and PRP into the pain generators in and around joints such as the knees, shoulders and hips. It’s called RegenaJoint. He used this technique on Geraldine’s left knee.

He has also developed a similar system to treat the spine called RegenaSpine, which he used on Geraldine’s low back and sciatic pain. RegenaJoint and RegenaSpine are both minimally invasive procedures that are performed right in the doctor’s office using a local anesthetic. Patients typically resume normal activities immediately following the procedure.

“Dr. Grana took fatty tissue from my stomach and took the stem cells from that,” Geraldine recalls. “Then he got platelets from the blood he took from my arm. He mixed the stem cells and platelets together and injected the combination into my back and knee.”

“I Feel Great”

“About two weeks after the injections, I started to feel better,” Geraldine reports. “I had a lot of energy, and I was able to do all sorts of projects. I trimmed a palm bush in the yard, then put rubber rings around its trunk. I also spread mulch, which made the yard look really nice. I carried all of the mulch and dirt I used, and I wasn’t in pain.”

Geraldine continues to reap benefits from her stem cell therapy, and today, she’s amazed by how much improvement she’s achieved. She recognizes Dr. Grana and his treatments for her success.

“I feel great,” Geraldine raves. “I no longer have any pain in my back or down my left leg. Every once in a while, my knee hurts a little in one place, but when I mentioned that to Dr. Grana, he said it takes time for the joint to heal. Unless it gets worse, there’s nothing to worry about.

“The stem cell treatment was successful. The knee pain I have left is only a one on a scale of one to ten, and I no longer get that feeling it’s going to give out on me. Unfortunately, now my right knee sometimes feels that way. I told Dr. Grana maybe next year, I’ll have that knee done, too.

“I recommend RegenaJoint and RegenaSpine and already have to a few people. And I have recommended Dr. Grana and Regenerative Orthopedic Institute as well.”

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