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Facet syndrome, also known as spinal arthritis, is characterized by inflamed facet joints. These joints provide links between adjoining vertebrae, and are important for smooth movement, posture and balance. With age or repeated injury/overuse, the protective cartilage in facet joints hardens, causing pain, swelling and inflammation. The neck and lower back are particularly vulnerable to facet disorders.
Risk factors for facet syndrome include advanced age (particularly, over 55 years), gender (greater incidences observed in women), obesity and history of injury.
Typical symptoms of facet syndrome are pain and stiffness in the neck and back. Cases, wherein the spinal nerves are compressed due to facet defects (e.g. bone spurs), numbness in the arms and legs may be experienced. The symptoms could vary from mild to debilitating, depending upon the type of defect.
Spinal arthritis is diagnosed by a physical examination and imaging tests, such as X-ray and Magnetic resonance imaging. Blood tests can help eliminate other underlying causes of symptoms.
Spinal arthritis can initially be treated by self-care measures, such as weight control, exercises to improve muscle strength and joint flexibility, rest and the use of splints or traction. Over-the-counter pain medications for spinal arthritis include analgesics (acetaminophen), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin), as well as topical ointments and creams. Steroid injections may be administered at the affected site for the relief of persistent and severe pain symptoms. People, who do not respond well to conservative measures, will require surgery for spinal arthritis.
People who are suffering from persistent spinal arthritis symptoms may benefit from 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, tendon, ligaments, 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.
Unlike steroid injections, stem cell therapy does not present side effects, and is generally well-tolerated in patients. Moreover, because these cells are derived from the patient, there are no chances of immune rejection. Other types of stem cells used in practices include amniotic derived stem cells and umbilical cord blood cells, both of which are not recognized by the patient’s immune system, and therefore very safe to administer.
Traditional surgical interventions are associated with side effects, such as anesthesia complications, a long recovery process and the chance of requiring additional surgeries. Stem cell therapy, on the other hand, promotes the body’s natural healing process to result in faster and stronger recovery.
Stem cell therapy for chronic back pain has shown promising results in both animal and human studies. A pilot study recently evaluated the safety and efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) in 10 patients with chronic back pain problems. The subjects presented lumbar disc degeneration with intact annulus fibrosus.
All subjects received MSC injections the nucleus pulposus area. A 12-month follow-up revealed significant improvements in pain and disability. In addition, magnetic resonance imaging showed significant elevation in disc water content in the treated subjects. Therefore, stem cell therapy presents a simple and effective approach to repairing spinal degenerative problems.
Amniotic and Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Treatments
The most revolutionary regenerative medicine treatments now being offered include amniotic and umbilical stem cell treatments. These are FDA regulated and contain growth factors, hyaluronic acid, cytokines and stem cells.