Discs in the neck and lower back may degenerate, causing chronic back and neck pain. In the United States, 500,000 spinal fusion surgeries and 400,000 lumbar discectomies are performed every year for people who are dealing with chronic back pain due to disc degeneration. Regenerative medicine offers an alternative to surgery, and the innovation provided by stem cell therapies is an exciting new way to help people who are suffering from chronic back and neck pain that are caused by degenerative disc diseases in the neck and back.
What is regenerative therapy?
Regenerative medicine is a relatively new branch of translational medicine that is focused on helping the body’s own ability to repair itself by regenerating healthy tissue for the restoration of function. Regenerative therapy may involve injecting stem cells into damaged areas in order to help regenerate healthy tissue.
What are stem cells?
Undifferentiated cells, stem cells hold the potential to be turned into specialized cells that can form a variety of different tissues. Stem cells may be adult stem cells or embryonic stem cells. Since embryonic stem cells come from human fetuses, there are numerous ethical concerns with using them. Instead, adult stem cells are used for regenerative therapies.
Adult stem cells are taken from adults and may come from the bodies of the patients who will receive the stem cell therapies. They may fall into several different subcategories, including messenger stem cells, which can differentiate into fat, cartilage or bone cells. These adult stem cells are not able to differentiate into other cell types.
How do stem cell therapies work?
Regenerative stem cell therapy involves taking a patient’s stem cells by removing tissue from his or her fat cells or hip bone. After the tissue is aspirated, it is then centrifuged in order to separate and identify the specific cells that can help to heal the damaged tissue. The cells are then injected into the degenerated disc, which stimulates the regeneration of the disc’s collagen. As the collagen is regenerated in the damaged disc, its function should slowly be restored.
How the procedure is performed
Normally, the messenger stem cells will be taken from the bone marrow of a patient’s hip bone. The extraction will usually only last for a couple of minutes. The patient lies face-down on the operating table, and the site is numbed with a local anesthetic. A specialized needle is then inserted into the bone marrow portion of the hip bone, which contains the messenger stem cells. After the liquid marrow is withdrawn, it is placed in a centrifuge machine in order to separate out the stem cells from the cells that aren’t useful. This results in a concentrated stem cell solution, which is then injected into the damaged disc. It is an in-office procedure and is relatively painless.
How many injections are required?
Most patients only need one injection, but some patients may need two or three in order to get the full benefit. No more than three injections are performed during any calendar year.
When do people experience improvements?
After receiving stem cell injections, most people report improvements within about two to three months. Some people report some improvements sooner, however.
Since the stem cells are taken from the bodies of the patients, there is no potential for allergic reactions. People may experience risks that are associated with injections, including bleeding, infections or damage to the nerves.
Stem cell therapy may be a great alternative to spinal surgery for people who experience chronic neck and back pain caused by degenerative disc disease. People may want to talk about regenerative therapy with their doctors as a potential treatment option.
To learn more about stem cell therapies offered at the Spine Institute Northwest, visit https://www.spineinstitutenorthwest.com/treatments/regenerative-therapies/ or call us today at (206) 496-0630.