Historically, if you had back pain, you would medicate it or you would undergo surgery. There was very little in between except for gradients of discomfort and limited mobility. Today, we have new options thanks to the ever-evolving field of regenerative medicine. Here, doctors use substances like platelet-rich plasma and stem cells to treat various injuries and conditions. Stem cells, a therapy that Dr. Watson offers in our Tampa office, have shown promise for those seeking improved healing either without surgery or as an adjunct to surgery.
What is Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cells are transmutable; they can change into a variety of different kinds of tissues as needed, which makes them incredibly valuable for repair. In fact, the body naturally turns to its stem cells as a way to repair or replace damaged or dying cells. In regenerative therapies, stem cells are directed to a particular area where pain is ongoing. In our office, that area is the spine. Injecting stem cells around damaged spinal discs can soothe irritated nerve roots, resulting in improved comfort.
This form of therapy has been described as the latest innovation in medicine. This is because:
- Stem cells provide the opportunity to heal damage rather than simply manage pain.
- Using a patient’s stem cells, this therapy works in concert with the body’s natural processes.
- The proper and ethical use of stem cells produces minimal discomfort and side effects.
- Studies reveal that, in some cases, the outcome of stem cell therapy is better than surgery.
Is Stem Cell Therapy Effective?
There has been quite a lot of debate about the use of stem cells to repair tissue damage such as injured vertebral discs. The reason could be that methods vary from one clinic to another. There are misconceptions about which type of stem cell therapy is most appropriate, and which might achieve the best results. For example, some believe that adult stem cells are nonviable because, as the body ages, so do its stem cells. Studies suggest otherwise.
Adult stem cells can be obtained from two locations: the adipose fat tissue and the iliac crest of the upper hip. In one study of bone marrow stem cells obtained from the iliac crest, a prominent orthopedic surgeon recorded that 70% of 26 treated patients reported significant pain relief. 76% of the treated patients avoided fusion surgery. Disc regeneration was noted in 40% of the treated patients. None experienced complications. In a 5-year follow-up, patients reported continued comfort. Only 4 patients eventually had fusion surgery to address severe disc injury.