Since the 1950s, stem cells have been used to treat many types of cancer, as well as several blood-related diseases. In the ensuing 70 years, extensive research and repeated experience has allowed science to better understand the ways stem cells can be applied and the benefits they can bestow to patients.
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Indeed, the success of bone marrow transplants, in particular, has not only improved patient outcomes, it has paved the way for the burgeoning interest in and experimentation with alternative stem cell applications. Thus, while the field of regenerative medicine is not new, it is changing.
Today, physicians are still using stem cells to treat blood diseases, but they are also using them to help repair and regenerate tissue that has deteriorated in other parts of the body, as well. Whether due to chronic or acute injury, disease and/or the natural aging process, our bodies weaken over time; as the progenitor of most (and sometimes all) cell types, stem cells have the potential to replace damaged cells, restoring function and mobility to areas that have previously been decayed. One of the most common ways stem cells are now being used is to treat the degeneration of the discs in the back.
There’s no denying that it’s an exciting time for doctors and their patients alike; but it’s not a time without complications. With any new advance in science comes misconception. People (scientists included!) can assume too much or too little, confusing ideal and realistic outcomes in the absence of historical evidence. Only time can solidify theory. With regards to using stem cells for back pain, for instance, patients often expect that their procedure will mimic that of a bone marrow transplant, with a donor supplying the stem cells, a period of weakened immunity and a long recovery. In fact, their expectations are nearly always wrong. Here’s what really happens when you receive a therapy using stem cells to treat back pain:
The Reality of Using Stem Cells for Back Pain
Unlike a bone marrow transplant, stem cell therapy to treat back pain is minimally invasive. It can be done in the comfort of a doctor’s office (rather than a hospital), with no incisions and no general anesthesia. Also in contrast to many other types of stem cell transplants, our stem cell procedures for back pain here at ThriveMD do not involve allogeneic stem cell donation and don’t require the suppression of the immune system to encourage engraftment.
We harvest stem cells from adipose (fat) tissue usually in the abdomen or flank. We also extract stem cells from the iliac crest using a needle and create platelet-rich plasma with blood components taken with a standard blood draw. We isolate/centrifuge each of these aspirates in order to make a concentrated combination of stem cells, growth factors and proteins. We then inject the solution back into the patient’s body at the site of the damaged tissue using live x-ray (fluoroscopic) or ultrasound guidance. Patients walk out of the office within three or four hours of their arrival and recover at home, usually returning to work within one or two days! Pain relief can commence in as little as two to 12 weeks as healthy cells are restored and inflammation goes down. Continuing improvement possibly extends up to one year past treatment. Frequently, our patients return to normal or near normal functioning with a significant lessening of pain.
Want to Learn More?
The only way to be fully informed about stem cell therapy is to talk to a skilled physician. Our medical director, Dr. Scott Brandt, has 30 years of clinical experience and is an expert in interventional pain medicine. If you would like to know if your back pain could be treated with stem cell therapy, contact our office so that we can thoroughly review your history and needs.