Don’t Operate – Regenerate!

Regenerative medicine therapy repairs discs, allowing active snorkeler to enjoy ‘trip of a lifetime’

Karen says her symptoms began to improve within weeks of receiving the ReginaSpine protocol. A few months later, most of her pain and spasms were gone and she resumed her active lifestyle.

 When Karen-Astley Moore added snorkeling in the Tobago Cays to her bucket list a few years ago, she did so knowing full well that her chances of scratching off that item stood between slim and none. 

The reason is that the Tobago Cays are an uninhabited archipelago in the Lesser Antilles that can be accessed only by boat from another island, the closest of which is Canouan, which isn’t easy to get to either. 

“It takes three flights just to get to Canouan, and then you have to take a boat to the Tobago Cays,” Karen explains. “It’s quite an undertaking, but when my husband won a trip to Canouan as a reward for his business, we said, This is our chance; we’re not missing it.” 

Karen and her husband made their trip to Canouan in early April. From there they chartered a 43-foot catamaran to the Tobago Cays, where they spent four days living on the boat and exploring the island and its surrounding clear blue waters. 

“We swam with five-foot sea turtles, five-foot stingrays and manatees, and the coral reefs were the most beautiful I’ve seen in the 38 years that I’ve been snorkeling,” Karen exudes. “It was the trip of a lifetime and so worth the long journey to get there.” 

Karen, 61, didn’t devote all her time in the Tobago Cays to snorkeling. An avid kayaker and paddle-boarder, she also engaged in those activities. 

A couple of years ago, agonizing neck and arm pain would have prevented her from taking such a trip. 

“I’ve been dealing with neck pain that radiated into my arms for years,” Karen laments. “I was a gymnast in high school, and that’s probably where it started. But then I worked for 40 years as an oncology nurse, always lifting a lot of heavy patients. 

“That didn’t help me any because I’m not a very big person. I’m just five feet tall and weigh about 115 pounds, so around 1995, all that heavy lifting started to cause some problems for me. That’s when the pain in my neck really started to bother me. 

“But it wasn’t just in my neck that I felt that pain. The pain also radiated down into my arms, which is called radiculopathy. Later I found out that the cause of all this was not just herniated discs but disc desiccation in some of the discs in my cervical spine.”

Desiccation, or dehydration, is a common feature of a condition known as degenerative disc disease, where disc deterioration can cause a range of issues, including pain, numbness and tingling in the neck, arms and back. 

After suffering for four years with the aggravating pain in her neck and arms, Karen underwent neck fusion surgery in 1999. That surgery bought her more than a decade of relief, but her pain returned in 2011 and led to a second surgery in 2012. 

Like the first operation, the second bought Karen years of relief. In 2021, however, the pain returned with a vengeance. What Karen described as a “searing, burning pain” coursed through her neck and arms regularly and disrupted most every aspect of her life. 

“It was so bad that I couldn’t even hold a glass in my hand because I couldn’t feel it,” Karen offers. “But being a nurse, I know that you can’t just keep fusing the spine because once you get to a certain level, you start running the risk of paralysis. 

“So, I said to myself, no more surgeries, and that’s when I started looking for something else. I started by visiting a couple of pain management doctors, but I didn’t feel comfortable with any of them. Then I found Dr. Grana at Regenerative Orthopedic Institute.” 

New-Age Specialty 

Founded by Erick A. Grana, MD, Regenerative Orthopedic Institute specializes in regenerative medicine, which promotes growth in tissue ravaged by injury, arthritis or degeneration. 

“Regenerative medicine therapy treats disease and injuries by harnessing the body’s natural healing powers,” Dr. Grana educates. “The natural healing process occurs by combining patients’ stem cells with platelet rich plasma (PRP), a concentration of platelets from their own blood. 

“Unlike surgery, which can result in blood loss, scarring and long, painful recovery periods, regenerative medicine therapy requires only injections into the damaged joint. This advanced process results in a safe, effective treatment.” 

Stem cells are the most basic building blocks of tissues and organs, and they can be collected directly from the bone marrow or fat of the patient. There are no side effects or rejection. 

The procedure to collect tissue is similar to a blood draw. Once the tissue has been harvested, the stem cells and PRP are isolated and injected into the affected areas to spark the regeneration of damaged tissue. 

Regenerative medicine therapy can be used to treat damage in the knees, shoulders, ankles, wrists, hips, back and neck. It can also be used to treat arthritis and peripheral neuropathy, as well as muscle and tendon tears almost anywhere in the body. 

At Regenerative Orthopedic Institute, Dr. Grana developed a system for delivering restorative tissue and PRP into the spine called RegenaSpine™. He also developed a similar system to treat damaged joints called RegenaJoint™. 

Rapid Relief 

Karen spent several months researching regenerative medicine and visiting area physicians who specialize in the treatment. She chose Dr. Grana and Regenerative Orthopedic Institute for two reasons. 

“First of all, Dr. Grana is a pain management specialist,” Karen explains. “I’ve got nothing against orthopedic doctors, but pain management specialists have done thousands of these procedures, and based on volume alone, they’re just better at it. 

“The other thing I like about Dr. Grana is his philosophy. I like the fact that he only uses autologous restorative tissue, which means he only uses tissue taken directly from the patient. I didn’t want bagged restorative tissue or some other person’s tissue.” 

Karen first visited Dr. Grana a little more than a year ago. After determining that she was indeed a good candidate for regenerative medicine therapy, Dr. Grana obtained and processed the restorative tissue, then treated her using his RegenaSpine protocol. 

“After doing all of my research, I figured it would probably take about six months for me to start feeling the effects,” Karen says. “But I can honestly say that I started to feel significantly better within three or four weeks. 

“Then, as time went on, I just continued to improve and get better and better. After a month, most of my pain and spasms were gone, and after a few more months, I was out kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, gardening and even doing Pilates again. 

“At the six-month mark, I was back doing everything that I like to do, and I can tell you that were it not for Dr. Grana and his regenerative medicine therapy, I would not have been able to make that trip to the Tobago Cays. 

“First of all, three plane rides aren’t kind to anybody. And living on a boat for four days is not easy either. But I was able to do all of that as well as snorkel, kayak and paddle board, and thanks to Dr. Grana, I had a great time doing it.”  

Florida Health Care News 

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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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