Dr. Thierry Bonnabesse received his education abroad: across the ocean and across the country. His journey began in Marseilles, France, with a science degree from the University of St. Jerome. His education then brought him across the Atlantic, where he landed at the University of Vermont, eventually graduating with a Doctor of Medicine in 1996. He chose to continue westward, and completed his residency in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the University Medical Center of Loma
Linda in California and a Fellowship in Pain Management. After the birth of their first child in 2004, Dr. Bonnabesse and his wife realized that they wanted to be closer to home. Plattsburgh seemed the perfect place: beautiful, family oriented, and close to French-speaking Montreal. At the time, Plattsburgh also needed a pain specialist, and Dr. Bonnabesse was excited about the idea of being able to bring his knowledge and skills in his field of expertise to an area that did not have such services.
He founded Champlain Spine and Pain Management (CSPM) in 2004, and the practice has been at its current location on Feather Drive (off Tom Miller Road in the town of Plattsburgh) since 2009. It has grown from one to six providers. The team has collectively treated tens of thousands of patients over the years, and is anticipating the opening of a new pain surgical center—The Surgical Pain Center for the Adirondacks—in 2018.
CSPM treats patients suffering from a spectrum of chronic pain conditions including arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, disc tears or bulges, chronic headaches, or any musculoskeletal pain resulting from repetitive, sport, traumatic, or work-related injuries. Traditionally, treatment options range from physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, medications, targeted spinal and peripheral nerve blocks, to surgical options. Historically, all of those treatments have merit and, with the proper application, their own advantages and successes. However, there are still many patients who do not get the relief they need from these methods. At other times, the relief they experience is slow to come. Surgical options also come with bigger risks and longer recoveries, and, too often, many patients still cannot find appropriate relief despite such interventions.
New Relief for Pain
But what about the future? The future of pain management may well be within each one of us.
The most recent medical research has discovered that all of us carry throughout our body adult stem cells which have amazing abilities to repair our own tissue, and the medical community is just beginning to harness their potential. Dr. Bonnabesse has spent extensive time studying and learning about this new cutting-edge field of medicine—referred to as regenerative medicine or orthobiologic— in order to bring it to his patients in the North Country.
Adult stem cells hang around in the body your whole life. They are found in a highly harvestable concentration in our very own bone marrow. Research has shown that these cells have incredible regenerative properties, and, in fact, have the ability to not only intensify and enhance the body’s own healing capabilities but also to replace the dying or damaged cells within our diseased tissues. As science has shown, our own repair mechanisms slow down and become less efficient as we age. At times, the repair mechanism is too impaired, or the injury too great, for us to heal.
As we get older, it takes less to hurt more, and then twice as long to recover. A full recovery might prove to be an even more elusive creature even after surgery and months of rest and rehabilitation—until now. Dr. Bonnabesse and his team at Champlain Spine and Pain Management are offering patients this state-of-the-art technology in the form of regenerative medicine via adult stem cell therapy. The procedure is completed in the office and takes less than an hour from extraction to completion. “Stem cell technology represents state-of-the-art therapy,” Dr. Bonnabesse explained. “It is revolutionizing the delivery of medical care. Instead of simply masking a problem, it very often heals the problem for good.”
The Mechanism of Action
In the therapy, doctors usually harvest adult stem cells from the hip bone and then put them in a centrifuge to concentrate the cells. Then the doctor injects the concentrated cells directly into the diseased or damaged tissue, perhaps an arthritic joint or a damaged tendon or spinal disc. These cells go right to work differentiating into new, healthy tendon, cartilage, or disc cells while replacing the original damaged cells. The patient can typically go back to preinjury performance in a matter of weeks. The injection of PRP (protein rich plasma) can also assist the body in healing itself by stimulating the stem cells and by creating new blood vessels which will bring oxygen and nutrients to help in the regeneration of healthy tissue for cartilage, tendons, ligaments—even bone!
Stem cell therapy is allowing us to successfully treat conditions that, until now, could not be healed. While regenerative medicine is still in its infancy, its past and current outcomes have many scientists and physicians, including Dr. Bonnabesse, very excited about its current and potential applications in medicine. Many professional athletes have already turned to cell therapy and PRP injection in order to return to the field quickly and successfully. In fact, Dr. Bonnabesse himself received a stem cell injection last year for a hip condition, which could only have been helped with surgery. “A couple of years ago, surgery would have meant missed work, crutches for many weeks, as well as post-operative pain, not to mention the risks involved with any surgery. I had the stem cell injection done on a Thursday, and I was back at work the following Monday without any pain medication,” Dr. Bonnabesse said. “Four months later, I was back to sports full speed with no pain, and I have not felt it since.”
It is no wonder that more than 1,000 medical studies on regenerative medicine were registered in the United States in 2017 alone. There is interest worldwide, and many European and Asian countries have also started to offer these treatments to their citizens. More and more medical companies are also creating technology to assist the physicians who practice the treatment. “It is just a matter of time before this field explodes in the main media and becomes a premier treatment,” Dr. Bonnabesse said. “I believe that we are now at the cusp of a major milestone in the way that we approach and treat chronic pain as well as some orthopedic disorders.”
Dr. Bonnabesse is ready to take his team and the CSPM practice into the future. Champlain Spine and Pain Management is proud of its record of getting patients back to living enjoyable lives to their fullest using a variety of therapies within the practice including, but not limited to, regenerative therapy. “Chronic pain patients have had pain consume their lives to the point that they have given up the things they enjoy—sports activities or just simply picking up their children or grandchildren. We are honored to be instrumental in relieving that pain and helping patients to get back to doing what they love. It’s why I do what I do,” said Bonnabesse. “And the advantage of living in a rural area is that I get to see the results of our treatments when I run into patients at the post office or the grocery store. It is an incredible feeling,” he admitted.
Accelerated and full recuperation is not just reserved for superheroes any longer.