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When massage therapist Jessica Festa tore her deltoid muscle giving a woman a massage a couple of years ago, she dealt with extreme pain for about a year until she underwent a platelet-rich plasma treatment at OptiLux Wellness Center in New Kensington.
Within two days, she said, she went from not being able to throw a ball to feeling no pain at all.
“I couldn’t lay on this shoulder that whole time,” Festa said during an interview at the clinic, which she co-owns with her husband, Ron. “I can be in here all day long, and it’s perfect.”
The clinic last year started offering platelet-rich plasma treatment and stem cell regenerative therapy to their patients because they wanted to give them an alternative to surgeries.
“We were seeing so many people, nice people, trying to repair their knees. Half the time it worked really nice. The other half, no doctor could help them. If a total knee replacement fails, there’s nothing any doctor can do for them,” said Ron Festa, a chiropractor. “We hated seeing that happen.
“We came across this stem cell work, and it was helping people avoid those surgeries, regrowing their own tissue. So we looked into it, learned about it and started offering it.”
Stem cells are healing cells in the body that have the ability to produce new tissue and regenerate damaged tissue.
“It’s not like a surgery or a drug where you’re constantly having to re-op and redo and keep going. If you rebuild cartilage on a bone-on-bone knee, the pain of that arthritic condition goes away. The cartilage doesn’t disappear in three months,” Jessica Festa said.
“It’s like a lizard’s tail being ripped off. He grows a new tail. That’s the perfect example of regeneration. And we’re doing that — day in and day out.”
The stem cells come from umbilical cords donated from pre-planned Cesarean sections. They’re purchased through a stem cell bank. OptiLux Wellness Center doesn’t use embryonic stem cells, which come from fetuses, or a client’s own stem cells for treatment.
According to the Festas, stem cells that come from umbilical cords are much more effective than adult stem cells because they’re new and replicate faster.
“At our age, cell replication rate is once every 60 hours. At my children’s age or a newborn, it’s once every 24 hours,” Jessica Festa said.
About 150 people have received stem cell therapy at the Stevenson Boulevard clinic since it was introduced last year.
It’s administered by Dr. Nagaraj Kotekal, an anesthesiologist who studies stem cells, and Katelyn DeMoura, a family nurse practitioner.
The treatment takes about 15 minutes. The stem cells are injected into an injured area and then patients are able to get up and leave. Depending on your age, you may only need one treatment.
“There’s no down time. It’s a short, easy procedure,” Jessica Festa said.
Platelet-rich plasma treatment takes the same amount of time but uses a client’s own blood. It can be used to help heal injuries such as ACL tears, tennis elbow, rotator cuff injuries and wrist and ankle sprains.
Blood is drawn and put into a machine that separates the plasma and platelets from the white and red blood cells. The increased concentration of platelets is combined with the remaining blood. It’s then injected into an injured area.
The center has given platelet-rich plasma treatment to about 300 people. It costs between $500 to $1,500. Stem cell therapy costs anywhere from $3,500 to $30,000.
“$500 is a really accessible price for somebody to fix a rotator cuff tear instead of a six-month rehab and a surgery,” Jessica Festa said.