The Right Stuff

Stem cell therapy: an effective alternative to surgery.

As you might expect of someone who opted to run a 13.1-mile-long half-marathon on the night of her 50th birthday, Beth Snyder has never been one to let age slow her down. No, it took an automobile accident to do that.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Stem cell therapy has Beth working pain free.

“The accident happened on August 3, 2016,” explains Beth, who recently turned 55. “I T-boned somebody who ran a red light. I tried to stop, but it was just too late. I managed to save my life, but I hurt myself very badly in the process.”
The most severe injury suffered by Beth was to her right knee. The impact of the crash pushed her patella bone, which is the kneecap, forward and out of place and left her with ligament damage and three tears in her meniscus.
To make matters worse, Beth’s insurance company refused to pay for any treatment of her injuries. It argued successfully that she had suffered prior damage to the knee and that her injuries were not necessarily caused by the accident.
That decision triggered a long, arduous search for an affordable treatment for her knee pain, which brought an end to her career as a half-marathoner and nearly brought an end to her career as a visiting hospice nurse and caregiver at a local assisted living facility.
“I had to make a living, so I struggled through as best I could, using a cane and sometimes a walker,” Beth explains. “But just walking down the hallway was so painful that I literally had to hold on to the walls to keep from falling over.
“I was walking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Looking back, I don’t know how I was able to provide patient care, but I did. And driving to work wasn’t any better. Just by pressing the gas pedal or the brake, the pain was excruciating.”
Beth fought through the knee pain caused by her injuries as well as with her insurance company for several months. Finally, a late-December trip to Disney World® proved to be a turning point in her decision to seek treatment.
“It’s supposed to be the Happiest Place on Earth, but I was miserable there,” reports Beth, a longtime Disney enthusiast. “I was horrified that I couldn’t walk through the parks the way I usually do. That’s when I started searching for help.”

No to Surgery

Because of the legal wrangling with her insurance company, Beth waited until May 2017 to get treatment. When she did, she followed the advice of a close friend in the health care industry who suggested she get stem cell therapy at Coastal Integrative Healthcare.
“Most of the doctors I saw were telling me I probably needed to have knee replacement surgery, but I absolutely did not want to go through surgery,” Beth informs. “That’s why my friend kept encouraging me to do the stem cell therapy.
“I was hesitant about it at first, but I did my research and I was confident it could help me, so I went to Coastal Integrative Healthcare and had the MRI done. I was so happy when they told me they could do the stem cell therapy on me.”

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Beth Snyder

Beth met with Timothy Steflik, DC, the director and president of Coastal Integrative Healthcare. “We could tell right away she was a good candidate,” Dr. Steflik confirms. “She’s relatively young, and if she had knee surgery or even knee replacement surgery, she probably would need to have another surgery at some point down the road because they don’t last forever.
“Not only that, but she had a great desire to get better, so we knew she would do well. She was at a point where she was pretty much out of options. It was either going to be surgery, which insurance wouldn’t pay for, or stem cells, which ended up being a much less expensive, safer and better alternative.”

The Body’s Building Blocks

Stem cells are the basic foundation cells that grow all of the tissue and organs in our body. When injected into a damaged tissue or organ, they support the natural healing process by regenerating that tissue.
Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, uses stem cells to stimulate the body’s natural repair mechanisms. Many in the medical community, including those at the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Medicine, consider it the future of medicine.
“It’s definitely on the leading edge,” Dr. Steflik explains. “That’s because it’s a great alternative to surgery. It regenerates the body instead of trying to fix or cover up the problem with surgery. The beauty of it is that it’s a one-and-done, in-office procedure that we do in about fifteen minutes.
“There’s no anesthesia. It’s just a simple injection of the cells that are cryo-preserved in our office. For some patients, we can do a color ultrasound to guide the injection because we need to be very specific with where the cells are going. Then, once the cells are injected, the patient just needs time to heal. They can return to normal activities right away.”
Stem cell therapy can be used anywhere in the body where there is arthritis, or a muscle or tendon tear, Dr. Steflik relates. In addition to knees and shoulders, medical providers at Coast Integrative Healthcare have performed the procedure on hamstrings, ankles and wrists.
Not all patients are good candidates for the procedure, however. Patients who have suffered a tear of more than 50 percent of a knee ligament or the rotator cuff in their shoulder, for example, would be encouraged to try other options first.
Despite all the damage she suffered to her knee, Beth did not fall into that category. And while most patients receiving stem cell therapy begin to notice a reduction in pain and an increase in comfort within a month of the treatment, Beth was among those who gained relief almost immediately.
“It was within a week’s time that some of the swelling went away,” she says. “And before that, it looked like I didn’t even have a knee. I have pictures of my knee from before then, and you can’t even tell it’s a knee. It’s just so swollen. But that swelling went down right away, and then the pain began to go away.”
Beth was so happy with the results of the stem cell therapy that she decided to have her left knee injected as well in an effort to take care of some damage that was done there. Now, she says she is pain free in both joints and is back to doing a lot of the things she did before the accident.

“My knees feel great!” – Beth

“My knees feel great,” she proclaims. “I haven’t started running again yet, but I can ride a stationary bike and I can walk. And to think, I was in a wheelchair when this first happened, and in a wheelchair throughout that whole journey at Disney.
“I was in tears because of that, but now I can only smile because of the care I received from Dr. Steflik and everyone on his staff at Coastal Integrative Healthcare. They are just awesome, absolutely awesome.”

I’m a Believer

Charlotte Smith, who is one of the more involved and active members of the New Smyrna Beach community, came away from her experience with the staff at Coastal Integrative Healthcare feeling much the same way Beth did.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

Stem cell therapy has allowed Charlotte to return to her active lifestyle.

A real-estate agent by day, Charlotte is also a member of the Foundation board at Florida Hospital New Smyrna and she serves on several committees at the East Volusia Chamber of Commerce and she’s active in the Kiwanis Club.
She also jogs and power walks regularly and golfs at least one day a week. She did, at least until knee and shoulder pain forced her to the sidelines. The knee was the first to go, Charlotte tearing her right meniscus while running in the New Smyrna Beach Turkey Day 5K in 2016.
She had surgery a few months later to repair the knee, but the surgery “didn’t quite take,’’ Charlotte says. Several months later, she was still experiencing a lot of pain in her knee, especially when she would walk up or down stairs or try to climb her way out of a sand trap on the golf course. Then her right shoulder began to give her problems.
“I could only draw my arm back just so far, so when I played golf, I could definitely feel the pain there,” Charlotte, 61, relates. “But the bigger problem with my shoulder was that when I was in my car, for example, I couldn’t reach over to the passenger seat and reach into my purse for anything. I definitely could not reach into the back seat for anything. I couldn’t lift a bag of groceries or even pick up my briefcase. It was so painful. And because of the pain in my knee, I couldn’t jog or power walk.”
Charlotte initially tried to rid herself of the knee pain by wearing a brace and taking a lot of Advil®, which contains ibuprofen. When that didn’t work, she sought the advice of another doctor. She was skeptical when she was told the problem was a bad case of arthritis and she would eventually need to have the knee replaced.
Shortly thereafter, a friend suggested Charlotte accompany her for a shared appointment at Coastal Integrative Healthcare, where the friend was seeking information regarding the use of stem cell therapy to repair a hip problem. After doing some research on stem cell therapy, Charlotte decided it was worth her time to at least investigate the option.
“I thought, This makes sense,” Charlotte reveals. “I was really quite intrigued by what I learned about stem cell therapy and became a believer in it. My thinking was, I’m very busy, very active and very involved in the community, and I need to get this done because I can’t have a knee issue or a shoulder issue slow me down.”
Dr. Steflik says it’s not unusual for patients to become enthused about stem cell therapy once they learn more about it. Nor is it unusual, he adds, for patients to come to him thinking they are destined to have surgery, only to learn that there is indeed another alternative.
“We see it quite a bit where someone will say he or she has been told they need surgery because it’s bone on bone in the joint,” Dr. Steflik states. “But we’ll take x-rays right there in our office, and a lot of times, we can show them that it’s not quite bone on bone, that there actually is some cartilage left, and they are a good candidate for the stem cell procedure.

“I thought, This makes sense.’’ – Charlotte

“We also get a lot of referrals from people who have had the procedure done because they know it works. And we do get very consistent results. We are very careful about who we select for the procedure, because we want to be sure we get good results. If we’re not going to get those positive results, we’re not going to do the procedure.”
Dr. Steflik followed that process in determining Charlotte’s candidacy for stem cell therapy. After completing a digital x-ray of her knee, an MRI and orthopedic exam of her shoulder, he concluded that stem cell therapy could improve the condition of both by at least 90 percent.

Active Again

Unlike Beth, Charlotte did not return to full speed immediately. She actually went more than three weeks without noticing a difference in her joint discomfort, which is typical of most patients, Dr. Steflik confirms. All at once, though, and seemingly out of nowhere, Charlotte’s symptoms simply disappeared.
“We had just finished eating Thanksgiving dinner, and I stretched my arms above my head and out to my sides like you do when you’ve eaten too much, and I suddenly realized, I just did that and it didn’t hurt,” Charlotte recalls. “I didn’t even think about it. I just did it naturally, and it was amazing. And now, I can power walk, I can jog, I can play golf.
“Where I get my hair done, there’s this set of stairs that I have to walk up and down, and I used to think, Oh, this is going to hurt, especially when I went down, but now it doesn’t. And I was telling someone at lunch the other day, I can wave my arm around like it’s nothing again.”
Charlotte says she highly recommends Dr. Steflik and Coastal Integrative Healthcare for anyone who is suffering from joint or muscle pain.
“Dr. Steflik is very knowledgeable and down to earth,” she describes. “I knew he was listening to me when I was sitting with him. And I really have to commend Greg [Salter, ARNP], his nurse practitioner. He was fantastic at giving me the shot and working me through it all. The staff is great, and I have to say I love the science behind it. It’s really a blessing.”

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    • Coastal Integrative Healthcare

      The mission at Coastal Integrative Healthcare is to provide members of their community of Edgewater, New Smyrna Beach, and Oak Hill with quality care at affordable rates. They believe everyone deserves to receive specific and customized... Read More

    • Timothy Steflik, DC

      Timothy Steflik, DC, is a licensed doctor of chiropractic who graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Port Orange, Florida in 2011 and now serves as the clinic director and president of Coastal Integrative Healthcare. He is an adj... Read More