The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has reported that approximately 80 percent of Americans will experience low back pain at least one time in their lives. It has been estimated that one-third of Americans are living with some type of back or neck pain at any given time. However, it is low back pain that accounts for most missed days of work. Historically, back pain has been managed rather than treated. Remedies include rest, heating pads, ice packs, and massage. Beyond that, people with back pain have often had no other options but surgery to regain some degree of comfort and mobility. This is changing. In recent years, several studies have suggested that stem cells show a promising outlook for the treatment of back pain.
What is Stem Cell Therapy for Back Pain?
Many researchers and doctors have been excitedly watching the development of stem cell treatments over the past several years. We all have stem cells in our bodies. These are undifferentiated cells, meaning that they can morph into a variety of different types of tissue, including muscle or blood cells. It is this capacity to transform based on the environment that makes stem cells exciting to work with. Only some of the body’s cells are renewable. Those that make up cartilage and nerve are not. The number of cartilage and nerve cells we are born with is what we have to last our entire lives. At some point, they will degrade due to wear and tear or injury. This is exactly what we see happen in people who develop chronic back pain.
How Stem Cell Treatment Works
The value of stem cell therapy for back pain is that this approach is not reactive. It is not like, say, chiropractic care in which a patient feels pain and gets treatment for temporary relief. The intent of stem cell therapy is to instigate tissue repair by providing healing ingredients in the form of transmutable cells.
There are two ways in which stem cells are harvested from the patient’s body. The most common technique is to obtain fatty tissue from an area like the abdomen or thighs. The fat is then processed to separate all fluids, blood, and matter from stem cells. The purified cells are then injected into the area of the spine in which deterioration has occurred. The other method of obtaining stem cells is to harvest them from the iliac crest, the largest part of the hip bone. Here, stem cells can be derived straight from bone marrow.
Stem cell therapy is currently performed to help stimulate the natural repair of:
- Herniated discs
- Degenerative disc disease
- Pinched nerves (radiculopathy)
- Sacroiliac joint pain