Perilous Position

Stem cell therapy regenerates dentist’s neck and fingers.

Tampa native Vivian Medina, DDS, has been interested in health care since she was a teenager. So when she got the chance, she attended Creighton University School of Dentistry in Omaha, Nebraska, then turned her education into a lengthy career.

Photo courtesy of Vivian Medina, DDS.

Dr. Medina, who chose dentistry over medicine, prepares to treat a patient.

“The fact that dentistry allows more flexibility for home and children made it more appealing to me than medicine,” she explains. “Plus, dentistry is very detail-oriented, and I like that. So, I chose to go into dentistry and never looked back.”

“I’ve been practicing general and cosmetic dentistry for 29 years now. At my practice, we treat patients of all ages and specialize in patients needing aesthetic work.”

Years ago, Dr. Medina suffered a sudden disc rupture in her lower back. She was told that the rupture was caused by years of poor positioning on the chair she uses while working on patients. After treatment, she believed that the pain was gone for good and she would have no more problems.

“But four years ago, I started having neck issues that were also related to poor posture, and that pain was on a whole other level,” Dr. Medina recalls. “It was very sharp pain, and after a few hours, I couldn’t continue my workday. I had to take on an associate to help with the load because I couldn’t stay in the same position to work all day.

“The pain was pretty intense, a 10 on a scale of one to 10. But it wasn’t something that could be relieved with a couple of Tylenol® because there were three herniated discs in my neck. When those herniations placed pressure on my nerve roots, it felt like fire.”

Dr. Medina still has many years of dental practice ahead. Being able to freely move her neck was more important to performing her work than moving her lower back or any other part of her spine. To avoid surgery, Dr. Medina sought treatment for her neck pain from several specialists.

“The only things I was offered were injections into my neck or, if I couldn’t handle the pain anymore, fusion of my neck,” she states. “Neither of those options satisfied me. Then, I received a copy of Florida Health Care News, saw the tagline Don’t Operate – Regenerate! and became curious.”

Don’t Operate – Regenerate! is the motto of Erick A. Grana, MD, of Regenerative Orthopedic Institute in Tampa.

Dr. Grana specializes in regenerative medicine and 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 tissue in joints ravaged by arthritis or injury.

“Regenerative medicine treats diseases 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).

“This process results in a safe, effective treatment, 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 a few weeks.”
“I read the article about Dr. Grana’s stem cell treatment and how it can help,” Dr. Medina relates. “I had heard about the success athletes had using stem cells to treat injuries. I thought it was the most minimally invasive, natural way to help my condition, so I decided it was a good option for me.”

Tissue Regeneration

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

Stem cells are extracted from the patient’s bone marrow or fat, while the PRP is taken from the patient’s blood. The harvested stem cells 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 recalls. “Patients with osteoarthritis, in particular, have very few choices other than surgery when the condition advances and damages the joint.

“I haven’t had pain in any of my fingers since I received the stem cell therapy.” – Dr. Medina

“Since surgery has potential complications, 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 also developed a similar system to treat the spine called RegenaSpine. RegenaJoint and RegenaSpine are minimally invasive procedures performed in the doctor’s office using a local anesthetic. Patients typically resume normal activities immediately following the procedure.

“I Have No Pain”

“There was little discomfort during the actual injections, but that quickly passed,” Dr. Medina reports. “Now, I typically have no pain in my neck. The only time I do is if I fall back into the position with my neck down and forward, which caused the problem in the first place. If I do that, I might develop pain that’s a two or three on a scale of one to 10.

“But part of that is the fact that as I get older, I’m less tolerant of pain. So I’ve also made alterations to my chair, which also helped. Now, it’s rare that I’m in that bad position and abuse my neck. And that’s good because once the pain is gone, I’m not very happy if it comes back.”

Dr. Medina was extremely pleased with the resolution of her painful neck condition, then early this year, she started struggling with pain in the fingers of both hands. To ease the pain and provide extra support, Dr. Medina began taping her fingers with gauze. But as the pain increased, she visited multiple physicians seeking answers.

“The specialists said the problem in my fingers was degenerative osteoarthritis that developed over my many years of practice,” she describes. “Dentists are constantly gripping their fingers, and we perform fine motor movements all day long. But the specialists told me nothing could be done for my hands.

“Since my neck treatment turned out so well, I reached out to Dr. Grana to see if he could treat my hands the same way. He agreed and injected my stem cells into my fingers.

“My hands have really improved since then. I’ve continued to work and don’t need to wrap my fingers anymore. I haven’t had pain in any of my fingers since I received the stem cell therapy. The inflammation that was present and the knottiness that was occurring from mineral deposits are much, much better. Stem cell therapy really worked for me!’

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    • Regenerative Orthopedic Institute

      Don’t Operate… Regenerate Chronic pain in your neck, shoulder, elbow, hips, lower back, knees, ankles and other joints is frustrating to manage. If your joint pain treatment has been a series of minor, temporary fixes and, more often, disa... Read More

    • Erick A. Grana, MD

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