stem cell therapy vs back surgery

Stem Cell Therapy vs. Back Surgery Explained

Scott Brandt, M.D. Stem Cell Therapy, Stem Cells for Back Pain

The World Health Organization lists back pain as the leading cause of disability around the world. Twenty years ago, the best options for treating back pain, especially chronic back pain, were strengthening exercises, physical therapy, medication, injections and/or surgery. The results were often minimal, with last-ditch surgical procedures often causing more problems than solutions. After all, with surgery comes the risk of infection, increased recovery time and several other possible side effects and complications that, in many instances, can make its success in treating orthopedic injuries and disease and relieving pain hardly worth the investment of time, money, effort and hope it demands from patients, as well as their caregivers.

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However, there is good news. Over the past two decades, researchers have amassed a growing body of evidence showing the benefits of stem cell therapy vs. back surgery. An alternative to invasive procedures that require general anesthesia and months of recuperation, stem cell therapy offers a significantly less traumatic experience. Take a look at our review of the two treatments:

Stem Cell Therapy vs. Back Surgery: The Similarities

Some of the most common causes of back pain include degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, sciatica and facet joint dysfunction. Potentially, all of these conditions can be treated either surgically or via stem cell therapy. Depending on a professional review of a patient’s individual history, current circumstances and overall needs, a physician may choose one procedure over the other as each can possibly repair tissue and provide pain relief. Additional similarities between stem cell therapy and back surgery include the requirement that physical activity be limited in some way following each type of procedure, as well as the likely need for subsequent physical therapy and possible bracing support before recovery is completed.

Stem Cell Therapy vs. Back Surgery: The Differences

While the ultimate benefit of both stem cell therapy and back surgery could be the same, the risks are significantly different. Back surgery is considered a “major” surgical procedure, which often requires a general anesthetic, and carries significantly higher complication risks (such as nerve damage, bleeding, infection and a worsening of symptoms), and thus it is an inherently a more dangerous option. General anesthesia affects the entire body, exposing a patient to complications across many separate bodily systems (nervous, cardiovascular, pulmonary, etc.). 

Stem cell therapy, on the other hand, is performed under light IV sedation. An experienced physician at a reputable clinic uses small gauge needles and fluoroscopic and/or ultrasound guidance to harvest and then reinject stem cells into the damaged area(s) of the back. This minimally invasive technique means many of the intrinsic problems of a major operation are removed. Stem cell therapy patients can be treated in an out-patient, office based procedure suite. Most patients return to normal activities, including work and light exercise routines, much faster than those who have to recover from an invasive surgery. The majority of back surgeries require an in-patient hospital stay, which increases infection risk.  In addition, most back surgeries require patients to be out of work for an extended period of time. 

So…What Are The Next Steps?

If you or someone you care about is interested in learning more about stem cell therapy, please give us a call at 720-575-7878. We can assess your medical condition and help you determine the best treatment choice to improve your back pain.

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If you believe you or someone you care about could be a candidate for stem cell therapy administered by a trusted clinic, please contact us today.

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Linda Gerrans
Linda Gerrans
19:37 14 Dec 17
When I was told by an orthopedic doctor I needed double knee replacement I chose stem cell therapy instead. Stem cell therapy has helped me get through my days without the pain I was experiencing and enjoy the activities I was unable to because of the pain.
John Beeman
John Beeman
23:05 08 Jan 17
I just wanted to give an update regarding the stem cell procedure performed by Dr. Brandt at Thrive about 3 years ago. My range of motion continues to improve--remarkable at 64.I skied 150k in 5 days last week and never iced my knee once. I can't remember skiing that many feet w/out having to ice in the last 20 years. The knee treated has been without an acl since I was 18 and is pretty severely arthritic,but I am getting better performance now than I have in recent memory. Thank you, Dr. Brandt!!
Lisa Harris
Lisa Harris
15:59 02 Jan 17
After struggling with an Achilles injury for 1 1/2 years and trying everything to heal it - steroid, physical therapy, wearing a boot, no activity, stretching, etc - I decided to have stem cell therapy at Thrive.md. It was a short procedure and an afternoon of post op recovery, which after 6-8 weeks, resulted in a full recovery from my injury. This seemed to finally stimulate blood flow and healing to an injury I had resigned myself to having forever. I highly recommend this procedure for tendon injuries like this one.
Zvezdomir Zamfirov
Zvezdomir Zamfirov
03:55 14 Nov 16
I am a pain management physician myself. I am 52, and physically very active. I still play soccer competitively. Six months ago I suffered a hip injury with a labrum tear. Due to the pre-existing wear and tear, the only conventional treatment, which was offered to me was total hip replacement. I wanted to remain physically active and continue to play sports, so I decided that this is not the best option for me. I choose instead to try stem-cell therapy. Ten days ago I had my procedure done by Dr. Brandt, and since then I have nothing but positive things to say about him and his practice. Everyone in his office was extremely welcoming and put me at ease and comfort about my procedure. The procedure went very smooth. And I did not have ANY post procedure pain or discomfort. I had no need for any pain medication. I was back to work seeing patients on the 2nd day after the procedure. My hip already feels noticeably better. I have the second procedure scheduled in four weeks, and I am confident that in another 3-4 weeks I'll be back playing soccer again. Thank you, Dr. Brandt and team for taking such excellent care of me.
John Reilly
John Reilly
13:44 04 Nov 16
I saw Dr Brandt on 8/8/16 for a lower back stem cell injection. From the injection, I got a serious infection in my lower spine. As a result, I spent 2 days in the Vail hospital and have been on daily IV antibiotics for the past 8 weeks. A few weeks after the injection, I started feeling increased pain which was a different pain than before my injection. It was much sharper and a shooting pain. I communicated this information to Dr Brandt and his staff. There only response and treatment was stronger pain meds. oral and injected steroids (the worst thing to do when an infection is present). The pain became so intense and debilitating, I finally made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. Their team quickly discovered from listening to my symptoms and reviewing a new MRI that I had an infection. I also discovered from a search on DORA that over the past 13 years Dr Brandt's has a history of incidents with the DORA which regulates medical professionals. Over this time, his license was suspended for a period of time and is he currently practicing on probation through 2019. At one point, the AG said he was unfit to practice medicine.
Laurel Wilkerson
Laurel Wilkerson
21:22 08 Aug 16
Great job by the Thrive MD team in Edwards. With a torn achilles tendon, I was really opposed to surgery. When I discovered Dr. Brandt and team, I was thrilled. They are most professional and explained every step of the process and procedure for treatment options. I am on the road to recovery, and I am so thankful to have discovered Thrive. Before you let an orthopedic doc operate, take the time to explore and discuss stem cell therapy. Thrive MD made the process easy and convenient. Thanks! One year later update - ankle is doing great. Skied 52 days in 2015-16. Hiking, biking and all are no problem. Great team of caring people who know their business.
Karen Taylor
Karen Taylor
02:10 09 Dec 15
I am so happy to have found Thrive this past summer. After being told by 3 Dr's that I need a knee replacement I was feeling very discouraged. 2 1/2 years ago I had a very bad skiing accident and destroyed my tibial plateau. After surgery and physical therapy I was no where near where I wanted to be functioning physically. I couldn't hike, ski, or basically do anything active without constant pain. I went to Thrive and got my hormones balanced, got my energy level back up to where I like it to be and had several stem cell treatments on my knee. It was not an instant fix, but over the past 6 months it has continually started to feel better. I just skied 3 hard days in a row in Beaver Creek, with no swelling and very little pain! I am back to functioning at about 80% of my capacity. I'm thrilled with the progress and hope to continue to improve as I continue to be active this winter. I am so happy not to have a knee replacement and to be able to keep my own knee. Thank you Dr. Brandt.
Sylvia Baldwin
Sylvia Baldwin
00:00 26 Apr 15
Dr. Brandt is the best! I've been seeing him altogether for around 15 years now for corticosteroid injections for pain and would never want to see anyone else. He is very skilled with the needle and getting the injections done in exactly the right places. In addition, I've found Dr. Brandt to be a very concerned and caring individual; he's a great listener who clearly gives a lot of thought to what the best approach is going to be in dealing with the situation the patient describes. I've found that he always takes as much time as necessary to assess the situation; dealing with Dr. Brandt is such an entirely different experience than virtually every other meeting I've had with various surgeons and other M.D.'s. His staff is also very friendly, helpful and kind--as I said, he's the best...and well worth the drive to Edwards!
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