STEM CELL THERAPY FOR BACK PAIN

Stem Cell Therapy for back pain. What is it?

Stem cell therapy to treat back pain is the latest innovation in medicine. Stem cells are specialized cells whose main job is to repair and heal. Our stomach lining changes every 7 days and our skin changes every 30 days. Stem cells which are mainly responsible for it. These are the only cells in our bodies that can duplicate and recreate tissues. When we cut our finger or break our bones, Stem cells get activated and orchestrate the repair. Arthritis is a common condition which is very damaging to the spine. Unfortunately, our spine does not have enough stem cells to repair the where the native stem cells are not able to repair the destruction which leads to inflammation and pain. The Stem cell procedure extracts the plentiful stem cells in the iliac bone [back of the hip] where they are lying dormant or inactive. After extraction, they are transferred to the discs and other areas of the spine where “sense” inflammation and get activated. This results in pain relief. How do stem cells work in Back pain and Joint pain? Simple Explanation of a complex mechanism.. Additionally, studies have shown that there is disc regeneration. They also cause “immunomodulation” which means that it prevents the arthritis from getting worse.

Are stem cells an alternative to back surgery?

Back pain is one of the most difficult conditions to treat. This is because traditional medicine which includes drugs, physical therapy and injections has failed to relieve back pain. This leaves the patients with only option. That is surgery. Unfortunately, surgery helps only for a few years or in some cases doesn’t help at all. An extensive review of all the fusion surgeries done to treat back pain was performed. It revealed that when compared to conservative treatment, fusion surgery was not any better. Moreover, there were more complications reported in the fusion surgery group. In an elegant study done by Dr.Pettine, 76% of patients were able to avoid fusion surgery because they got excellent pain relief from bone marrow stem cell injections. This has been our experience too. Disc is the most common culprit causing low back pain. Fusion is the only surgery that treats it. To get the best results stem cells have to be injected into the disc. We are one of the very few centers performing this procedure in the disc.

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Are stem cells an alternative to back surgery?

Back pain is one of the most difficult conditions to treat. This is because traditional medicine which includes drugs, physical therapy and injections has failed to relieve back pain. This leaves the patients with only option. That is surgery. Unfortunately, surgery helps only for a few years or in some cases doesn’t help at all. An extensive review of all the fusion surgeries done to treat back pain was performed. It revealed that when compared to conservative treatment, fusion surgery was not any better. Moreover, there were more complications reported in the fusion surgery group. In an elegant study done by Dr.Pettine, 76% of patients were able to avoid fusion surgery because they got excellent pain relief from bone marrow stem cell injections. This has been our experience too. Disc is the most common culprit causing low back pain. Fusion is the only surgery that treats it. To get the best results stem cells have to be injected into the disc. We are one of the very few centers performing this procedure in the disc.

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What are the benefits of the using Stem cell procedure to treat back pain?

It is the most natural way to treat pain. We are using your own cells to heal the inflammation. For the first time in the history of medicine, we are able to treat pain by construction and regeneration. All traditional methods to treat pain including drugs, injections and surgery are destructive. Clinical trials for stem cells therapy for back pain report high percentage of pain relief in high percentage of patients. There is no surgery involved. The whole procedure is done through needles. Mild sedation and generous local anesthesia makes it tolerable. Compared to fusion, the recovery is much simpler. Most importantly, if the stem cell procedure fails, you can always have surgery. However, if you fail surgery, it may be difficult to do the stem cell procedure. Complication rate of this procedure is very minimal. Discitis or infection of the disc is known complication but it is extremely rare. We take all the necessary precautions and beyond to prevent this complication.

How do stem cells work?

Back pain is primarily due to inflammation. When we inject the stem cells, they “sense” the inflammation and get activated. Once they are activated, they secrete many anti-inflammatory proteins. These are the strongest anti-inflammatory agents known to man. More importantly, unlike man-made anti-inflammatory drugs, they do not have any side effects. Once the inflammation gets better, pain relief is obtained. This is the most important reason for getting the stem cell therapy.

Stem cells also cause regeneration of the disc. This regeneration seems more microscopic rather than macroscopic. In one study, although 81% of patients got pain relief, only 40% showed positive changes on the MRI. Another study showed that when bone marrow stem cells were injected in the spine, they not only proliferated but also created extra disc tissue implying regeneration.

Stem cells also cause “immunomodulation”. Once your body senses degeneration in the spine, it tends to attack it further. Stem cells by regulating the attacking cells, may prevent further damage in the spine. This can reverse or slow the progression of the disease.

However, the primary reason to get stem cell therapy is for its anti-inflammatory action which provides pain relief. For more details about the mechanism of action of stem cells, click here.

How do stem cells work?

Back pain is primarily due to inflammation. When we inject the stem cells, they “sense” the inflammation and get activated. Once they are activated, they secrete many anti-inflammatory proteins. These are the strongest anti-inflammatory agents known to man. More importantly, unlike man-made anti-inflammatory drugs, they do not have any side effects. Once the inflammation gets better, pain relief is obtained. This is the most important reason for getting the stem cell therapy.

Stem cells also cause regeneration of the disc. This regeneration seems more microscopic rather than macroscopic. In one study, although 81% of patients got pain relief, only 40% showed positive changes on the MRI. Another study showed that when bone marrow stem cells were injected in the spine, they not only proliferated but also created extra disc tissue implying regeneration.

Stem cells also cause “immunomodulation”. Once your body senses degeneration in the spine, it tends to attack it further. Stem cells by regulating the attacking cells, may prevent further damage in the spine. This can reverse or slow the progression of the disease.

However, the primary reason to get stem cell therapy is for its anti-inflammatory action which provides pain relief. For more details about the mechanism of action of stem cells, click here.

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What back pain conditions can be treated by stem cells?

The following diagnoses of low back pain can be treated with stem cells.

1. Disc degeneration

2. Disc herniation and protrusion

3. Facet joint arthritis

4. Sacro-iliac joint arthritis

5. Spinal stenosis

Some patients have weakness in the legs from severe nerve compression. These patients require surgery to decompress the nerve and hence are not candidates for surgery. If, patients have nerve compression WITHOUT weakness, they are still candidates for stem cell procedure. Fortunately, Most patients with nerve compression do not have weakness.

What to expect from stem cell therapy for back pain?

On the day of the procedure, you will be given a strong pain killer by mouth followed by sedating medication in the muscle. This will help with the pain and anxiety during the procedure. Antibiotics are given intravenously to prevent infections. Depending on the patient additional sedative medication is given if necessary. The iliac crest [back of the hip] is generously numbed with a local anesthetic. Using a smaller needle, small amount of bone marrow is aspirated at a time until 60 ml [2 ounces] is obtained. The extracted bone marrow is then placed in a concentrating device and 6-10 ml of fluid is collected. This liquid which has a lot of stem cells is then injected into the discs and other areas of the spine very precisely under x-ray guidance. Patient is then discharged after making sure that the patient has tolerated the procedure well. Some patients may have increased pain for 2-3 days after the procedure. Additional strong painkillers are given to tackle this pain. By 1-2 weeks patients original pain begins to subside and by 1-2 months the maximum pain relief is achieved.

Does the procedure have to be repeated?

No. It is a one time procedure. In our experience, most patients do well as we have a special technique to maximise the number of stem cells extracted. Additionally, multiple pain generators are targeted precisely with stem cells.

What are the risks involved with stem cell therapy for back pain?

This is a safe procedure with minimal risks. Some patients have increased pain for 2-3 days after the procedure. Occasionally, this pain may last for 1-2 weeks. We treat this post procedure pain aggressively with painkillers. After the first week, patients start noticing pain relief. It takes about 2 months to get the full benefit from stem cell therapy

Although extremely rare, discitis [infection of disc] is a risk. Dr.Atluri performs this procedure taking meticulous precautions to avoid this complication. Pre-procedure and post procedure antibiotics are given to minimise the risk.

Is stem cell therapy for back pain, the right treatment for you?

If the pain is severe enough that is affecting your lifestyle and if you have failed conservative therapies like medication, physical therapy, etc, you should consider stem cell therapy. If the pain is tolerable or minimal, you are not a candidate. Stem cells “sense” inflammation and get activated. If there is no pain, they will not get activated.

If you are having Chronic pain [pain for more than 6 months] consider stem cell therapy. If pain is less than 6 months, it is preferable to wait and see as pain may get better on its own.

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