Stem cells are unique in that such cells have not yet formed to the point where the cells have a specific purpose. It’s believed that when stem cells are transferred to a new environment, the cells will promote tissue regeneration and growth. When it comes to lower back pain, the theory is that stem cells could spur cartilage and muscle development, possibly resulting in relief from lower back pain.
Stem cell treatment only becomes a viable treatment option for lower back pain when disc degeneration is confirmed. While there has been some early success in clinical trials, it’s still unknown what modifications may have to be made to stem cells injected into any portion of the spine. Since there is a limited blood and oxygen supply where the discs are located along the spine, stem cells need to be carefully placed at a point where they will be able to survive.
In one study, patients were injected with a combination of their own bone marrow and adult stem cells. Of the subjects who had no further procedures to ease their lower back pain, 80 percent reported a reduction in pain within 2-4 months following the injection of the stem cell mixture. None of the patients experienced any complications from their injections.
While stem cells may prove to be a safe and effective method for treating low back pain, there’s a lack of sufficient research on the long-term effects of stem cell injections. It’s important for patients to understand the experimental nature of this area of science, especially when going outside of clinical trials and studies to have the procedure. Stem cell injections don’t become a realistic option for patients until other methods of relief have failed, and there’s no guarantee other procedures like spinal fusion surgery won’t be necessary later.
Further research is needed to confirm how well adult stem cells may be able to regenerate damaged disc tissue, and such procedures aren’t yet covered by most insurance providers. For low back pain sufferers not finding relief elsewhere, however, stem cell treatment offers the possibility of a life with reduced pain and discomfort.
To learn more, reach out to The Spine Institute Center and Medical Director Dr. Hyun Bae. Dr. Bae is a leading researcher in stem cell repair for degenerative disc disease and an experienced spine surgeon helping people just like you find lasting relief. Schedule an in-person consultation by calling (310) 828-7757.