Stem Cell Therapy for Degenerative Disc Disease
A closer looks at the vertebral column will reveal that between adjacent vertebrae there exists a disc, acting as a cushion. The disc acts as a shock absorber, and the mechanical stresses of movements are transferred from the bones to the disc.
Many spinal problems originate from the gradual degeneration of the intervertebral discs. These discs are responsible for bearing body weight and enabling range of motion. Over time, daily stresses and injuries take a toll on the intervertebral discs.
An intervertebral disc is made up of water at the center (the nucleus pulposus) surrounded by tough ligament-like outer ring (annulus). Disc injury generally tends to happen at the annulus first, leading to the formation of scar tissue.
Because scar tissue cannot withstand as much pressure as healthy tissue, the annulus gradually weakens, and finally the nucleus pulposus starts to lose water content. The cushioning effect of the disc is lost, leading to the narrowing of the disc space. The two vertebrae begin to move closer to one another, resulting in joint problems.
Low back pain is strongly associated with intervertebral degeneration, and is also known as discogenic pain. In the US, low back pain is reported to be the 5th most common reason for physician visits. Other symptoms of degenerative disc disease include back pain that spreads to the buttocks and upper thighs.
Degenerative disc disease is diagnosed by physical examination of the spine, patient’s neck mobility, pain sensations, sensory changes, reflex changes and motor skills. X-ray examination is helpful to reveal structural abnormalities in the vertebral region, such as decreased disc space, bone spurs, facet hypertrophy, bone fractures, tumors and infections. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can also be used to detect soft tissue problems in the area, such as abnormalities in the nerves and ligaments.
A treatment plan for degenerative disc disease is designed based on the severity of symptoms and underlying conditions.Rest and the use of pain medications may be sufficient in some cases. Aspirin can be used for pain relief.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, are good for controlling pain as well as inflammation.Narcotic pain medications, such as codeine and morphine, may be necessary for severe pain symptoms.
Muscle relaxants can be taken to control muscle spasms. Furthermore, some antidepressants have been reported to relieve back pain. The nerve cell signals that control depression seems to be involved with pain sensation as well. Finally,epidural steroid injections can be administered to patients with persistent symptoms that do not respond well to more conservative approaches.
Physical therapy, including pool training and posture training, can also be undertaken to strengthen the back muscles and improve flexibility.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cells are primitive cells that can undergo differentiation to form different types of cells in the body, such as bone, blood, cartilage, etc. These cells are responsible for healing tissue damages by generating new healthy cells. However, with age, the body loses its ability to attract enough stem cells to the site of injury. In this regard, stem cell therapy delivers a high concentration of stem cells to the affected area to promote natural healing.
Recent studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of preventing as well as reversing degenerative disc damage in animal models using stem cell transplants. A positive effect was observed on intervertebral disc height and disc water content in these studies.
Compared with steroid injection in the spine for the relief of pain, stem cell injection offers a safe and natural way of healing. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be obtained from the patient’s own bone marrow or fat. The regenerative capacity of stem cells enables the degenerated disc to heal in a natural way through the formation of healthy tissue. Moreover, MSCs are known to secrete anti-inflammatory factors, such as cytokines, that alleviate pain and inflammation.
Patients, who need to rely on powerful steroid injections for the control of pain, have to face the side effects of steroids. In contrast, stem cell therapy promotes healing as well as the relief of symptoms without the adverse effects. Options for stem cell therapy for disc disease include:
- Bone Marrow or Adipose Derived Stem Cells
- Amniotic Derived Stem Cell Therapy
- Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy
To learn more about your regenerative medicine treatment options for degenerative disc disease, contact us at R3 Stem Cell Clinics for more information and scheduling – (844) GET STEM.
- American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM). “Stem cell transplant shows ‘landmark’ promise for treatment of degenerative disc disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140308094811.htm>
- Doniel Drazin, Jack Rosner, Pablo Avalos, and Frank Acosta, “Stem Cell Therapy for Degenerative Disc Disease,” Advances in Orthopedics, vol. 2012, Article ID 961052, 8 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/961052