It wasn’t that long ago that patients suffering from spine pain and injury had a limited number of treatment options, none of which was optimal. They could live with the pain and try to manage it; they could take powerful pain medications with the risk of addiction; they could take periodic steroid injections which can suppress the immune system and cause weakening of the tissues; or they could undergo surgery, which causes permanent alterations and might or might not completely remove the pain.
In recent years, though, regenerative medicine has provided a healthier alternative treatment that enhances the body’s ability to heal itself naturally. Regenerative treatments have shown great promise in treating numerous types of injuries and chronic conditions, including degenerative spinal conditions. Let’s look at two current regenerative medicine options to treat spine pain.
Stem cells are non-specific cells we all have in our bodies that can “differentiate” and become specific types of cells to replace damaged tissue. One of the largest concentrations of stem cells in our bodies is in the adipose tissue of the abdomen. With stem cell therapy, we extract some of these cells from the abdominal tissue, process them and re-inject them into the patient at the site of injury or degeneration. The stem cells then begin replacing dead and damaged cells to accelerate healing.
Stem cell therapy has proven effective in treating a variety of both acute and chronic injuries, including conditions associated with aging. Chronic tendonitis, ligament injuries, cartilage damage and arthritis are a just a few examples. For spine patients, stem cell therapy is perhaps most commonly used to treat degenerative disc disease, enabling repair and rehydration of damaged discs as an alternative to surgical procedures.
Another effective approach to regenerative medicine is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, which is used to help accelerate the healing process for injured tissue. Platelets in the blood are the cells which promote clotting, a critical step in the body’s regenerative healing process. By extracting blood from the patient and putting it into a centrifuge, we can separate out the other blood cells leaving plasma with a high concentration of platelet cells (up to 10 times the number normally found in the blood. When we inject this concentration back into the injury site, the body’s self-healing qualities are activated and enhanced, enabling quicker healing.
PRP therapy is often used in association with sports injuries, including osteoarthritis, non-healing or chronic wounds, etc. However, PRP therapy has also proven to be effective in helping reduce pain and promote healing of osteoarthritis of the spine, facet joint pain, sacroiliac joint pain and other degenerative conditions.
One thing to consider with regenerative medicine is that it isn’t a cure-all or an instant fix for these conditions. Rather, it jumpstarts the body’s own regenerative processes (which may sometimes have been suppressed due to other medical conditions) so natural healing and regeneration can occur over time. It doesn’t provide instant pain relief, but it can long-term recovery over time without the need for powerful medications or surgery. To learn more about whether you may be a candidate for regenerative medicine options for spine pain, call Polaris Spine and Neurosurgery Center at 404-256-2633.