It’s always nice to have options. And nowadays the options for treating debilitating back pain far exceed what used to be the standards: rest, medication, physical therapy and/or — in worst case scenarios — surgery; today, back pain sufferers have the option of using disc regenerative therapy, as well. This type of non-surgical, minimally invasive intervention often offers quicker relief with less down time than any of the traditional back pain treatments. Here’s what you need to know about back pain and disc regenerative therapy:
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Back Pain Often Results from Disc Deterioration
Back pain can occur when the muscles, tendons and/or ligaments in the back become damaged due to an injury. It can result as a natural consequence of old age or disease. Certain inherited conditions can precipitate back pain, as well. In many cases, however, back pain stems from problems with the intervertebral discs that lie between our vertebrae. When one or more of those discs start to degrade (for whatever reason), they lose their cushioning effect due to loss of hydration in the nucleus of the disc, as well as degeneration of the outer ring of annulus of the disc. Often there will be ingrowth of small pain fibers into the disc as well. The grouping of degenerative processes can lead to intervertebral disc disease, or discogenic pain, These conditions are a common cause of back pain.
There are Several Types of Disc Regenerative Therapy
Disc regenerative therapy involves the injection of a concentrated aspirate into a disc that has experienced trauma, overuse or decay with the anticipation that the aspirate will work to help repair and reduce the pain from the damaged disc and restore part — or all — of its function. In this blog we’ll talk about two types of disc regenerative therapies:
Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy
Blood is made up of four components: red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma and platelets. When utilizing platelet rich plasma therapy, a doctor draws blood from a patient and uses a centrifuge to isolate the blood’s platelet rich plasma (PRP), which naturally contains growth factors, proteins and cytokines (critical elements needed for the healing of wounds). Next, the physician tailors a formula of other biologics to add to the PRP. They then inject the customized PRP aspirate back into the same patient at the location of the injured disc(s). Research indicates that the combination of PRP and other biologics, most commonly stem cells or Alpha 2 macroglobulin, amplifies naturally-occurring immunoregulatory qualities that enable the body to heal discs naturally.
For more information on the procedure and results of PRP therapy, check out this interesting study from Cureus. This investigative study from 2021 demonstrated clinically significant improvements in pain and functional outcomes in patients undergoing cervical spine injections with concentrated platelets at the 24-month post-injection follow-up. Though the sample size was small, this early data is encouraging and larger, comprehensive trials will follow.
Stem Cell Therapy
Another type of disc regenerative therapy is called stem cell therapy (SCT). Like PRP therapy, when SCT is used for disc regeneration it is an autologous procedure (meaning biologics are taken from and injected back into the same patient), making it safe for recipients with no risk of rejection or disease transmission. It works because adult stem cells are special stem cells that exist in adult tissues and have the unique ability to “transform” into other specific types of cells. When removed from the body, oftentimes they can be utilized as treatment for a specific disease or condition. Indeed, studies show that when stem cells and other immune-boosting biologics are combined in an injection and administered into a damaged disc, they are able to jumpstart the replication of new disc cells at the point of injection and start replacing damaged cells so that new disc tissue forms and begins to work normally. All of this can lead to a dramatic improvement in pain.
The Benefits of Disc Regenerative Therapy
In contrast to traditional disc disease treatments like rest, medication, physical therapy and surgery, disc regenerative therapy:
Is Considered Minimally-Invasive and Safe
With no major incisions or general anesthesia, disc regenerative therapy is very safe. And because it is an autologous procedure, there’s no risk of rejection. Although there is always a small risk of complications, it is dramatically smaller than surgical intervention.
Requires Less Downtime
Both of these types of disc regenerative therapies can be performed in an office base procedure suite within just a few hours. There is no need for patients to take a lot of time off from work or other obligations. And when compared to prolonged use of medication, repetitive conditioning regimens and surgery recovery, recuperation from disc regenerative therapy is a much easier and condensed process. Patients usually return to daily activities within a few days and to modified exercise within a few weeks or up to just one month.
Has Potential to Actually Repair Tissue
Finally, unlike other therapeutics, disc regenerative therapy has the potential to grow new disc cells and build new disc tissue, restoring an injured disc’s ability to protect and cushion the back’s surrounding vertebrae. Further, they can also decrease ongoing degeneration and greatly diminish discogenic pain caused from the ingrowth of new pain fibers.
Want to Learn More?
To learn more about disc regenerative therapy and how it could replace the use of surgical interventions for severe disc degeneration and discogenic pain, please contact ThriveMD. Our medical director, Dr. Scott Brandt, is a leading expert in regenerative medicine and carefully oversees the customized treatment plans of all our patients, ensuring they have the best chances for pain relief and recovery when undergoing disc regenerative therapy.