Can Stem Cells Help Back Pain?

Among the clinical applications considered for adult tissue stem cell therapy, relief of chronic pain is a major focus of investigation. The potential mechanisms for pain relief are not thought to be the tissue renewal properties of injected stem cells. Instead, the treatment basis is a hypothesis that tissue stem cells are able to produce and secrete factors that promote other tissue processes that act to reduce tissue conditions that excite pain receptors.  A possible mechanism might be promoting increased arterial blood flow that increases tissue oxygenation.

Can stem cells cure back pain?

There are anecdotal testimonials of tissue stem cell injections relieving chronic back pain and other joint-related pain. However, no objectively verified, consistent practice with predictable rates of success has emerged so far.

Can stem cells cure herniated discs?

Different types of stem cells have been injected with or without other treatment agents (e.g., fibrin glue) into and around herniated discs in patients with associated pain. However, to date, objective summaries of treatment course, treatment outcome, and treatment predictions have not been reported.

Can stem cells cure degenerative disc disease?

To date, there is little if any evidence to support this claim.

Can you regenerate spinal discs?

Like other tissues composed of acellular materials like cartilage or tendons, spinal discs have little or no regenerative capacity.

Does stem cell therapy work for back pain?

There are insufficient reports of objective outcome data to answer this question.

Are stem cells a viable treatment for back pain?

One of the challenges of invasive back pain therapy is pinpointing the physical source of the pain. An improvement in the morphology of degenerative discs does not always result in pain reduction. Not enough is known about the normal action if any, of stem cells in the spinal column to answer this question. Even if stem cells do not normally have a role in the spinal column, their medical placement there could cause beneficial effects. Depending on the source of the pain and the capabilities of the stem cells, for some patients, a benefit might be had. If approached with proper care for safety and scientific method, these questions could be evaluated in either private clinics or clinical trials overseen by agencies like the FDA.

Does stem cell therapy work for spinal stenosis?

This specific question must be answered in the same manner as the general question about stem cells treatment for back pain. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing at certain points of the vertebral canal through which the spinal cord travels. If injected stem cells had the ability to cause bone removal at the point of stenosis, then they might reduce the pain experienced without resorting to surgery. However, currently, there is no basis for assigning such a property to tissue stem cells.

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