The Road Back

Nonsurgical stem cell therapy alleviates spinal pain, neuropathy.

Ever since he was old enough to get behind the wheel, Joe Ocello has been a car guy. A master mechanic, he repairs cars, tinkers with them, even collected a few, including a 1951 Ford pickup he cherishes above all others.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Joe has become a fan of stem cell therapy.

“It’s only got 36,000 original miles on it, which is kind of neat,” Joe says of the classic pickup. “I also have a couple of motorcycles and some other stuff, so pretty much anything mechanical, I enjoy tinkering with.

“I’ve always been that way. I’ve worked on cars and stuff like that all my life, and I love my field of work. I’ve always been on the repair side of the business, but I’ve also owned gas stations, repair shops and towing businesses.

“My towing company towed cars for the police department for 35 years. My father did the same thing, and now my sons have taken over and they’re doing it. We’ve done that through three generations now, and you don’t see that too much these days.”

At 65, Joe considers himself only “semi-retired.” His passion for cars and for working on them is so great that he’d like to maintain that status for years to come. A recent procedure to correct a lingering back problem will help make that possible.

“I first started experiencing back problems when I was about 30,” Joe explains. “I was never a stand-behind-the-counter kind of guy, and because of that and my line of work, my back problems just got progressively worse over the years.

“It was all that wrenching and lifting and working in weird positions – hovering over cars or working under them – that took a toll. My lower back, down by the tailbone, is where most of the damage was done, and it really made life difficult.

“I would say that on most days, by 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I was totally wiped out from dealing with the pain. It was exhausting, and by the time I got home, all I wanted to do was sit down. And even then, I’d spend the night just moaning.

“Even walking was a problem, because if I had a day where I had to do a lot of walking, the next day would be terrible. I’d be in so much pain that I could barely move, and I always had this grinding-like feeling inside my back.”

Joe’s pain became virtually unbearable a few years ago. At that time, he briefly contemplated laser spine surgery, but doctors could not guarantee the surgery would provide a long-term solution, so he passed.

“It’s a great alternative to surgery. It regenerates the body instead of trying to fix it or cover up a problem with surgery.” – Dr. Steflik

A New Jersey resident who spends his winters in Florida, Joe began researching other options. One possibility he discovered was stem cell therapy, and he soon attended a seminar to learn whether it might provide some relief.

“I learned at the seminar that stem cell therapy was mostly being used to repair knees and shoulders,” Joe remembers. “They really weren’t touching the back yet because they had no statistics to prove it would do anything for the back.

“My wife has a cousin who is an orthopedic surgeon in Tennessee, and he’s been practicing with stem cells for the past 10 years, so I started to keep in touch with him to see where things were heading.

“I also kept an eye on things myself, and in 2019, I found this place called Coastal Integrative Healthcare and called them to see if they were doing stem cell therapy for the back yet. They told me they were, so I made an appointment to go see them.”

The Body’s Building Blocks

Coastal Integrative Healthcare is a medical center dedicated to serving its community and providing pain relief for patients through the use of advanced chiropractic equipment, technology and stem cell therapy.

Also known as regenerative medicine, stem cell therapy stimulates the body’s repair mechanisms. Stem cells are the basic foundation cells that grow body tissue. When stem cells are injected into damaged tissue, they support the natural healing process by regenerating that tissue.

Many in the medical community, including those at the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Medicine, consider stem cell therapy the future of medicine.

“It’s definitely on the leading edge of medical technology,” states Timothy Steflik, DC, of Coastal Integrative Healthcare. “It’s a great alternative to surgery. It regenerates the body instead of trying to fix it or cover up a problem with surgery.

“The real beauty of it is that it is a one-and-done, in-office procedure that takes about 15 minutes to complete and needs no anesthesia. It’s a simple injection of the cells that are cryo-preserved right in our office.

“I could not walk for very long or very far without having a lot of pain the next day. Now, I can walk as far as I want and for as long as I want and not feel a thing.” – Joe

“For some patients, we do a color ultrasound to guide the injection because we need to be very specific where the cells are placed. Once the cells are injected, the patient needs time to heal. They can return to normal activities right away.”

Stem cell therapy can be used anywhere with arthritis or a muscle or tendon tear, Dr. Steflik educates. In addition to knees and shoulders, Coastal Integrative Healthcare providers have performed the procedure on hamstrings, ankles and wrists.

Not all patients are good candidates for stem cell therapy. For example, patients who have suffered a tear of more than 50 percent of the rotator cuff or with no cartilage remaining in the knee would be encouraged to first try other options.

Give Me Some Space

Joe’s first visit to Coastal Integrative Healthcare came in August 2019. During that visit, he was given a thorough examination and had x-rays of his back taken that showed damage in the lower back and a lack of proper spacing between discs in other areas of the spine.

The damage wasn’t so terrible, though, that it could not be alleviated through stem cell therapy. When Joe was told it could reduce his pain by as much as 50 percent, he opted for it. He received four injections of stem cells into his back and shortly after began a physical therapy regimen back home in New Jersey. The first test of the treatment came in November, when Joe and his wife visited Italy.

“I was already starting to feel better by then, but I knew I was going to be doing a lot of walking on that trip,” Joe says. “As it turns out, we probably walked about 10 miles a day, and they were tough miles. In Italy, you’re walking on a lot of cobblestone streets and sidewalks, you’re walking up and down hills, but I had no problems at all. In fact, it turns out, that was probably the best physical therapy I could have had.

“That’s what the doctors at Coastal Integrative Healthcare told me when I returned a few months later for my follow-up visit. They said all that walking was actually good for me, and I can’t disagree because I have absolutely no pain in my back now.

“It’s really incredible, because for so long I was very limited. I could not walk for very long or very far without having a lot of pain the next day. Now, I can walk as far as I want and for as long as I want and not feel a thing.”

Joe says the grinding-like feeling he used to get has disappeared, allowing him to resume the active lifestyle he prefers.

“I’m being smart about what I do,” Joe confirms. “I’m not running around doing things like I’m a bionic man or anything. But I can do all my normal daily activities and all the things I like to do without pain, and you can’t ask for much more than that.”

Selling Point

While Joe’s livelihood was repairing cars, Don Founds spent 50 years selling the parts that made such work possible.

“I started selling car parts for BorgWarner corporation back in 1971,” says Don, who spent a large part of his career working in Delaware. “After that, I worked for a number of different companies, selling both import and American car parts.”

Don wrapped up his career in 2016, after he and his wife moved to the Edgewater area. Not long before he went into retirement, he began paying a price for all those years behind a counter – particularly on his feet.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Stem cell therapy alleviated Don’s aggravating foot pain.

“It started a few years ago. I had this burning and tingling in my feet, and there were other times when my feet just hurt,” Don reports. “It would start about an hour or two after I started working each day, and it was very uncomfortable.

“I guess it was from being on those hard, concrete floors, because the pain would increase as the day went on. For a while, I tried changing shoes, because the shoes I was wearing weren’t comfortable anymore, but that really didn’t do much.

“The only relief I got was when I went home at night, sat down in my recliner and put my feet up. Once I was able to do that, the pain started to go away, but I knew I had to have this looked at.”

Don’s foot pain was caused by a condition known as neuropathy. Diabetes is a common cause of neuropathy, but it can result from anything that compromises the normal flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the nerves.

Despite his discomfort, Don did not immediately seek help from a podiatrist or even a primary care physician. Instead, he acted on recommendations from friends who gained relief from the issue through stem cell therapy.

Shortly after looking into it, Don received a brochure in the mail announcing a seminar on stem cell therapy sponsored by Coastal Integrative Healthcare.

“They told us all about stem cell therapy and how it works, and showed a video on it. Afterward, they asked if anyone was interested in looking into it further,” Don remembers. “I raised my hand and said, Yes, I would, and that’s how we got together.”

Regenerate and Restore

Neuropathy of the foot is typically treated with pain relievers, topical treatments or anti-seizure medications that also relieve nerve pain; surgery to decompress the nerves is another option.

However, those approaches only mask the symptoms of neuropathy, while the all-natural regenerative therapies that Coastal Integrative Healthcare specializes in can resolve the underlying problems.

Coastal Integrative Healthcare’s leading-edge stem cell treatments, administered in the office in minutes through a series of simple injections, are designed to regenerate and restore damaged tissue.

About a week after visiting the practice for his consultation and exam, Don received injections at the base of his toes in each foot. His pain began to subside a month later and disappeared after about three months, the result of the regeneration of damaged tissue in his feet. It was aided by cold laser treatments that are designed to stimulate blood circulation in the affected areas.

“I also did some physical therapy, mostly balancing exercises, and they gave me a laser device so I could do the laser treatments at home,” Don says. “After a while, I was feeling like normal again, and I haven’t had a problem since.

“I have been very pleased with the results of the stem cell therapy. It did exactly what I hoped it would. It took care of my foot problem. I was also very pleased with all the folks at Coastal Integrative Healthcare.

“They’re very courteous, very helpful and you can tell they’re interested in your well-being. Just as friends did in suggesting I try stem cell therapy for my neuropathy, I definitely recommend Coastal Integrative Healthcare.”

“It did exactly what I hoped it would. It took care of my foot problem.” – Don

Like Don, Joe is not just a fan of stem cell therapy, he’s also become a fan of Dr. Steflik and the staff at Coastal Integrative Healthcare. He lauds them for their thoroughness and professionalism.

“They’re great people,” Joe expounds. “You go in there and they discuss everything with you and answer all your questions. They tell you all the pros and cons of the therapy, so you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.

“I really like that they’re very realistic about the therapy. They don’t give you any false hopes or anything like that. They tell you this should work really well for you, but they allow you to make the decision based on the information you receive.

“Because of all that, I’ve already recommended other people to them. My son-in-law is a young guy in his 40s and he has a lot of damage from different things, and just like I’ve told others, I told him, Just go see them. What have you got to lose?”

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