No More Knee Pain

Regenerative therapy relieves debilitating joint pain without surgery.

Like a lot of high school athletes, Chris Toews dreamed of competing not just at the collegiate level, but also in the pros. The difference is that as a soccer player, Chris was actually good enough to dream.

A natural athlete who also played football and baseball, Chris was a goalkeeper who was good enough at age 12 to play for a team that represented the US in international tournaments.

“To be pain-free is phenomenal!” – Chris

“To be pain-free is phenomenal!” – Chris

But his goal of playing college or professional soccer came to a crashing halt when his right knee was torn apart in a horrific collision with a high school opponent.

“I was going after a loose ball, and there was a forward going after it at the same time,” remembers Chris, now 43, “I got to the ball just as he did, and when he went to kick it, he came across my knee at just the right angle and everything in my knee snapped.

“When I stood up, my leg was just dangling. I was hurt so bad that they had to cart me off the field and bring an ambulance to get me out of there. That injury was a career-ender. I never played competitive sports again.”

The collision left Chris with two torn ligaments and several tears in his meniscus. He underwent reconstructive surgery and nine months of rehabilitation, none of which prevented him from suffering through years of misery.

“I’ve had to deal with pain in that knee for the majority of my life,” Chris laments. “It has never been very stable either. But other than knee replacement surgery, the doctors have always told me there’s nothing they could really do for me.

“But the doctors have also been telling me for years that I need to wait until I’m at least 50 to have replacement surgery because if I have it now I’ll probably need to have it done again in 20 years or so. I guess knee replacements don’t last forever.”

The quandary forced Chris to make adjustments in every aspect of his life, including work, where he previously worked 12- and 14-hour days running a restaurant but struggled to get through days without pain relievers. 

“I also do a lot of fundraising in the community, and we do a lot of things like 5K runs,” he expounds. “Well, jogging five kilometers certainly wasn’t an option for me, but even just walking five kilometers wasn’t going to work for me either.

“I had trouble just walking around Disney World for a day without some kind of pain reliever or extra bracing on my knee. To top it off, I have a daughter now, and I have aspirations of coaching her in soccer and softball one day. I’ve worried for years that I might not be able to.”

Chris’ worries increased a little more than a year ago when his pain worsened. Finally, he resolved to pursue a solution that didn’t involve surgery or another prescription for painkillers.

Through that search, Chris learned about a treatment called regenerative medicine. When he discovered the treatment was available at Coastal Integrative Healthcare, he scheduled an appointment.

“I was at a point where I felt I had nothing to lose,” Chris recalls. “But from what I read about regenerative medicine, I couldn’t see where there were any negatives against it. I figured I may as well learn what it’s all about.”

During his initial visit to Coastal Integrative Healthcare in June, Chris met with Timothy Steflik, DC. As a result of a thorough examination and MRI evaluation, Dr. Steflik discovered Chris was dealing with a variety of issues, including soft tissue damage and arthritis. 

The doctor suggested treating the damage with regenerative medicine.

Body’s Building Blocks

Regenerative medicine uses the foundation cells that grow tissue throughout the body. When these cellular products are injected into damaged tissue, they support the natural healing process by regenerating that tissue and stimulating the body’s repair mechanisms.

Because of this regenerative nature, many in the medical community, including those at the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Medicine, consider regenerative medicine to be the future of medicine. Dr. Steflik is right there with them.

“Regenerative medicine is definitely on the leading edge of medical technology,” Dr. Steflik educates. “It’s a great alternative to surgery because 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’s 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 cryopreserved in our office.

“For some patients, we administer the injection using color ultrasound to help guide us. We do that because we need to be very specific where the cells are placed. Once the cells are injected, patients need time to heal, but they can return to normal activities right away.”

Regenerative medicine can be used to help treat arthritis, muscle or tendon tears, and peripheral neuropathy almost anywhere in the body, including knees and shoulders, ankles and wrists, hips, back and neck, Dr. Steflik details. 

Not all patients are good candidates for regenerative medicine. For example, patients with a complete tear of the rotator cuff would be encouraged to try other options first. 

Chris was deemed a good fit.

Feeling No Pain 

Before going to Coastal Integrative Healthcare, Chris was told by yet another doctor that his best option was to deal with the knee pain for as long as he could.

“The only other option was replacement surgery, which the doctors wanted me to put off, and pain relievers, which I really try to stay away from,” Chris reports. “I mean there are so many places that just want to give you a pain reliever, and that’s it.

“That’s not how it was at Coastal Integrative Healthcare. They really opened my eyes when they explained that these regenerative medicine injections would actually allow my knee to repair itself on its own, so I agreed, and we jumped right in.”

Chris received his injections about two weeks after first meeting with Dr. Steflik. Shortly after, he began cold laser and knee joint injection therapy, which are part of the protocol.

The effects, Chris raves, have been “fantastic.”

“It’s funny because people always ask me, How’s the knee feeling?” Chris relates. “Well, for at least a month now, I’ve been telling them that I’m not feeling any pain in it anymore. And that’s without the Bayer® arthritis medication I was taking each morning to help me get going and through the day. I haven’t had to take that in weeks. 

“I’m even starting to get some strength back in that knee because we recently started doing physical therapy on it. I’m not 100 percent because I’ve still got some stability issues, but to be pain-free is phenomenal, and the fact that I’m actually developing strength is giving me a lot of hope for the future.

“For years, I had very limited use of my right knee, which I’ve had to favor and baby for as long as I can remember. But now I’m starting to build up the weakened muscles in my quads and calves, and that’s making a big difference in my life.”

Down on One Knee 

For their 50th wedding anniversary, Diana DeCastro and her husband hopped onboard a cruise ship and took what can only be described as a whirlwind tour of Europe. What else would you call sailing to 31 countries in 35 days?

“We went everywhere on that cruise,” Diana remembers. “We went to so many countries that I can’t name them all. I need to look at the itinerary to make sure I got them all.

“I’m working out in my yard and enjoying it again because I can get around without any knee pain." - Diana

“I’m working out in my yard and enjoying it again because I can get around without any knee pain.” – Diana

“It was a great trip, though. The ship travels during the night, and by the next morning you’re in a different country. The only hard part is that you’re always having to change your watch because you’re going in and out of different time zones.”

That minor inconvenience hasn’t soured Diana and her husband on the idea of taking another month-long cruise. In fact, they’re thinking of taking a similar journey to celebrate their 60th anniversary.

“We used to go to Disney World for our anniversary, but right now we’re not sure if we’ll be able to go anywhere because of COVID-19,” Diana reasons. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Diana, 77, was forced to take a wait-and-see approach to a lot of things in her life a couple of years ago after she was suddenly struck down with agonizing knee pain. The only trips she took were short jaunts to doctors’ offices.

“I went to doctor after doctor trying to find out what was wrong with my knee because it was making it very hard to do a lot of the things I like to do,” says Diana, who devotes a lot of her spare time to working out and working in her yard.

“I was still doing those things, but I was in a lot of pain. Finally, one doctor told me I had arthritis and started giving me steroid injections. I was getting one of those steroid shots every month, but then, after a few months, I started to gain weight.

 “I was wondering why I was gaining weight, and then a friend of mine told me it was probably because of the steroid injections.”

Weight gain is a possible side effect of long-term steroid treatments. 

“I didn’t want that to happen, so I stopped them,” Diana says. 

Next, Diana tried over-the-counter medications and creams. None provided the relief she was seeking and neither did compression stockings or a knee brace.

“My pain was only getting worse, and then I read an article in Volusia Health Care News about a treatment where they take out your blood and put it back in your knee,” she recalls. “I wanted to learn more, so I went to Coastal Integrative Healthcare to find out about it.”

That treatment is called platelet rich plasma, or PRP, in which blood is drawn from the patient and spun in a centrifuge until the PRP is separated from other cells.

The PRP contains hundreds of proteins called growth factors that can alleviate pain. Once separated, the PRP is injected back into the body, where it expedites healing and repairs damaged tissue. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions such as tennis elbow and osteoarthritis of the knee.

However, the staff at Coastal Integrative Healthcare recommended that Diana instead undergo regenerative medicine injections.

“They offered me regenerative medicine, so I said, OK, Diana reports. “I received three injections in March, and then we started doing some physical therapy three times a week. By the third week, I was feeling fine. No more knee pain.”

Fortunate Son 

As Diana’s pain diminished, so did her need for physical therapy. She now visits Coastal Integrative Healthcare once a week for physical therapy. She squeezes those visits into what is once again a very active schedule.

“I’m feeling great now. I’m going to the gym again and working out for an hour or more just like I used to,” she says. “And I’m working out in my yard and enjoying it again because I can get around without any knee pain.

“I’m very happy with the care I received from everyone at Coastal Integrative Healthcare. They are very good, caring people, and I feel fortunate that I read about them and went to see them about my knee pain. I gladly recommend them to anyone.”

Chris also feels fortunate to have found Coastal Integrative Healthcare. He says the staff has given him a new lease on life, and he appreciates their commitment to doing all they can for patients.

“Everybody there is really wonderful,” Chris enthuses. “They know who you are when you walk in and they really pay a lot of attention to what’s going on with you. They even took care of a shoulder problem I had been dealing with.

“My knee was the bigger issue, but when I mentioned that I had a small tear on my rotator cuff as well as in the labrum, they gave me regenerative medicine. I’ve regained a lot of mobility in that shoulder thanks to them.

“I’m treated like family when I go there, and I like that they’re always asking me, How’s the knee? How’s the shoulder? Thanks to Coastal Integrative Healthcare, I can say, Both are feeling great.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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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 in 2011 and serves as the clinic director and president of Coastal Integrative Healthcare. He is an adjunct professor at ... Read More

    • Greg Salter, MSN, ARNP

      Greg Salter, MSN, ARNP, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science/premed from the University of Tampa. He also has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Bethune-Cookman University and a master’s degree in nursing from South University in Sa... Read More

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    • Samantha Wunder, DC

      Samantha Wunder, DC, earned her bachelor’s degree in integrative health science from Stetson University, where she minored in psychology and sports medicine and also played soccer. She earned her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer C... Read More