Our spine supports literally every other part of our body. Without one that works smoothly and painlessly, it can be very difficult to do even the most basic of tasks.
Back pain is an extremely common malady: 8 out of 10 people have back pain at some point in their lives. This back pain can range from a constant, dull ache throughout the day, or from sudden acute pain every so often. The worst suffering is having chronic pain lasting for months!
What Causes Back Pain
The thing about back pain is that it can stem from a whole host of causes, including but not limited to:
- Poor sitting and/or standing posture
- Bad sleeping position or bed
- Overexertion from exercise or lifting heavy loads
- Deterioration due to excessive wear, age, or disease
The first few on the list can often be fixed or alleviated with more common solutions such as medication, physical therapy, exercise (with the right form!), and even surgery.
Quite often treatments are limited to symptomatic relief. Medications can help relieve the pain, while more acute or serious pain can be treated with steroid injections. This is a useful method for back pain that goes away within days or at most two weeks.
Longer-term treatments include exercise or rehabilitation that can increase the strength of our back muscles, relieving the strain caused by an overstressed spine. Alternative therapies such as chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, and yoga are complementary treatments often taken together with exercise to further relieve the pain.
But what if none of those options work? What if the problem lies deep within the spine that no amount of medication, strengthening, or even surgery can fix? What if the spine is simply too worn out from age or disease?
In this article we will cover a back pain treatment method that is gaining more attention as medicine and science continue to make strides: Stem cell treatments.
What Are Stem Cells?
The Mayo Clinic states that “stem cells are the body’s raw materials – from which all other cells are generated.”
Every cell in our body comes from stem cells – in fact, each one of us is the result of stem cells constantly dividing into all our different body parts; from a tiny embryo to who we are today.
With their ability to become any other cell, these powerful cells have been shown to be effective at treating certain diseases or in repairing damaged tissue. Can you imagine how they could be used to regenerate an old spine?
Using stem cells to restore bodily functions is a concept that has been around for many years, but the research can be contradicting and the treatments a little sketchy for a typical person.
However, recent research and developments in stem cell therapy has shown that it can be effective in long term treatment of back pain!
Stem Cell Treatment For Back Pain
Our spines have many segments to it, which are separated by shock absorbers called intervertebral discs distributed along it. As we grow older, the absorbers steadily get worn out, eventually leading to spinal compression, pain, and reduced mobility.
Stem cell therapy works by repairing these absorbers directly by adding the necessary cells back into them.
The great part about stem cells is that they continue to heal after application as the stem cells renew themselves. This represents the long-term effectiveness of treatments, with some testimonials stating that their back pain never came back even years after treatment.
The simple explanation is that doctors will harvest stem cells from your bone marrow and cultivate it into the right kind of cells found within your spine.
Once ready, the cells are injected back into the discs that need it the most. How many discs will certainly depend on how much you are willing to spend (more on that later).
There are a lot more steps, equipment, and experience that is needed for a safe and effective treatment. Not only do the stem cells need to be cultivated properly, but the doctors must be extremely precise in the injection location and are often supported by specialised scanners that ensure the stem cells are put to the best use.
How Much Do Stem Cell Treatments For Back Pain Cost?
A 2016 Business Insider (AU) article states that treatments cost AUD10,000 to AUD60,000 back then. A more recent statistic from DVCStem.com shows a range of USD5,000 to USD50,000 for stem cell therapies in the United States.
This hefty price tag is one of the hardest pills to swallow when it comes to stem cell therapy, especially when considering that insurance almost never covers such treatments.
On the other hand, with some studies pointing to years of pain relief from a single treatment (and some saying that the pain never came back), stem cells for back pain may still be something worth looking into.
Is Stem Cell Therapy Right For Me?
Well, that is certainly hard to say without a proper in-person diagnosis by a professional, licensed doctor.
The thing to remember about back pain is that it can be caused by very mundane causes which can be fixed cheaply and/or easily. A consultation with a doctor can often lead to a diagnosis or line of treatment more suitable to begin with, such as posture adjustment, getting a new sleeping arrangement, or plain old exercise.
Considering the costs as well as the often-experimental nature of stem cell treatments, it’s only natural to exhaust all other avenues of treatment before jumping into a therapy that is relatively new in the medical world. You also would not want any existing, unfixed issues to cause the degeneration again.
Where To Get An Honest Professional Opinion
Drs. Michael and David Black are chiropractors who have decades of experience in all things spine related. The doctors continue to stay up to date on the newest treatments (which is where this article comes from!) and can guide you through any chiropractic treatment.