We all have different levels of activity, but most of us are fortunate enough to take walking for granted. I’ve always been an active person and enjoyed the outdoors–hunting, fishing, hiking and have had the good luck to have a body that allowed that lifestyle. That all started to change a few years ago.
I was putting on a pair of Duck boots and noticed a tender spot on the top of my foot near my ankle. Not thinking much of it, I loosened the laces a bit and went about my day.
It quickly became clear, however, that the problem was more than a tight boot. I found myself loosening the laces on every pair of shoes I owned. Soon, I was shopping specifically for shoes with stiff soles and loose laces, and even looked for loose, floppy socks to avoid putting pressure around my ankle.
That should have been a red flag. I was finding ways to work around the pain, rather than addressing the root cause. No one wants to think that they have a medical issue that can’t be resolved with a little ice and a good night’s sleep. Even those of us in the medical profession are not immune to this type of “magical thinking.”
Time kept marching on, but I wasn’t moving anywhere fast. Truth be told, even walking was getting difficult. With each new progression of pain, I’d find a new way to compensate. I wasn’t hiking, hunting, or getting things done around the house. At work, I spent more and more time sitting at my sit-stand desk (and leaning on it when I did stand up).
After several years, the pain had progressed to the point where it was interfering with my work, and I finally broke down and saw an orthopedic doctor.
The news I received almost justified my procrastination in seeking treatment. The doctor recommended a bilateral (both feet) ankle fusion–a treatment for those with severe cases of ankle arthritis, plus bone spur removal on both feet.
Ankle fusion surgery involves removing the remaining cartilage in the ankle joint, creating a level bone surface between the foot and ankle, and fixing the joint in place with screws. In simple terms, they remove the “joint” part of your ankle joint, replacing it with a combined foot/ankle extremity.
There are several big drawbacks to ankle fusion surgery, starting with the long recovery time. No weight can be put on the ankle on the ankle for two to three months post-surgery. That’s 8-12 weeks of dealing with crutches or a rolling leg scooter (I’m too young for the Rascal™ power scooter version!) After that, many patients spend another two to three months in a walking boot, for a total of four to six months of recovery time!
Because the ankle joint is gone, patients that undergo ankle fusion never regain range of motion in that area. Running is impossible and walking has a robotic stiffness that may get you cast in the lead role of a community theater production of Frankenstein.
For some people, ankle fusion surgery is the only remaining option, but I didn’t want to give up without exhausting all possible options.
Even though medical professionals are often the worst about seeking care, we do have the benefit of knowing who to see when we are ready to get well.
A Regenerative Approach
Dr. Bradley Gipson is a podiatrist who has seen patients at our practice for nearly a decade. During his surgical training, he worked for the VA in Miami as their chief resident, specializing in foot and ankle reconstruction.
Rather than jump straight to the life-altering ankle fusion surgery, Dr. Gipson recommended a more conservative approach. He’d treat the arthritis in the ankle with stem cell therapy, and address the separate issue of bone spurs surgically.
Stem cells are the body’s building blocks. They can eat and replace scar tissue, kill infection, fight inflammation, and replace damaged tissue. Sounds pretty good, right?
Unfortunately, as we age, our body starts producing fewer stem cells–just when we need them most. For every 40 stem cells a baby has, older adults have just one.
We source our stem cells from the umbilical cords of healthy babies, delivered by selected, specially screened mothers after normal births. We pair the stem cells with cytokines and growth factors, which act as “foremen,” instructing the stem cells where in the body to go.
Really Good Results
Many patients get great results from stem cell therapy in our practice, but I was still surprised at just how quickly my symptoms improved.
After one stem cell therapy injection, the arthritic symptoms were 95% gone within 90 days. What was before bone-on-bone was now showing a thin layer of cartilage. All that was left to address surgically was a bone spur, which I had operated on in December.
I’m slowly transitioning back to the active lifestyle I once enjoyed. In January, I was able to walk my property and pull footage off game cameras for the first time in a long while. Hiking and exercising are once again becoming a part of my life.
With the improvements I’ve seen, my only regret is not addressing the issue sooner.
If you’re suffering from arthritis, come see us. Our medical staff will work with you to determine the best course of action.
Results may vary, but in many cases, our regenerative treatments can help you delay or even avoid surgery. If the damage in the joint is too extensive, we will recommend a surgical solution. Our number one priority is that you get back to living an active, enjoyable life. If you are a good candidate for stem cell therapy, or one of our other regenerative treatments, we’ll work with you to answer your questions and help you decide whether it’s the best course of action for you.
Give us a call at 865-524-1234 or check out AppleHealthcareGroup.com for more information. I’d love to have you experience the benefits of regenerative medicine first-hand, just like I did.