New Advance in Back Pain Treatment: Stem Cell Therapy

If you have chronic back pain, you can learn about all of your medical options before deciding on surgery. A new technique for repairing back structures relies on a part of the patient’s own body: stem cells. Kansas City Orthopedic Specialists┬áis an excellent resource for this.

Stem cells are the “clean canvas” of cells, capable of transforming into any other cell in the body. Mesenchymal cells are used to treat back pain and other chronic pain disorders, and they can transform into bone, cartilage, or fat cells depending on their environment. Adult cells are used, as opposed to embryonic cells, which can transform into any sort of cell. Since the cells are taken from an adult, the controversy surrounding embryonic stem cell research is removed from this type of procedure.

Due to their flexibility, stem cells may be able to treat a variety of disorders, including degenerative disc disease, vertebral fractures, ligament injury, and facet joint syndrome. The effectiveness of this new treatment in treating different forms of back pain causes is currently being studied.

The Methodology

Mesenchymal cells are extracted from the patient’s hip bone marrow. Depending on the procedure used, this may be painful. The Regenexx company says that taking a sample from the hip marrow with a small needle is a relatively painless process. The cells are usually mixed with platelets from your blood, which contain growth factors, after they have been separated from the marrow. Many practitioners combine the cell and platelet mixture with platelet-rich plasma or another material to facilitate the rapid replication of stem cells, making the process go faster. The cells, along with their growth factors, are then inserted into the damaged region of the body. If you inject it into a joint, cartilage will grow; if you inject it into a disc, new disc material will grow; if you inject it into bone, new bone will grow.

In addition, stem cells have been used in spinal fusion surgery, in which a weakened disc is removed and a cell mixture is inserted between two vertebrae to develop into bone and fuse them together. This is a surgical technique, as opposed to the injection procedure. Trials to see whether stem cells can regrow damaged discs are currently underway.