Back Pain Treatment - Stem Cells & Stem Cell Therapy

As far as I know, stem cell therapy as a back pain treatment for degenerative conditions such as degenerative joint disease is still is the research and development phase. There are no centers that I know of in the United States that provide stem cell therapy to regenerate or grow intervertebral discs or other joints.

Stem cell therapy is a technology that would offer a lot of hope to people with back pain and joint pain. In many cases, people have back pain because of degenerative changes to the discs, joints, and soft tissues of their spine. These discs, joints, and soft tissues have a minute supply of blood vessels, compared to the muscles and bones of the body. That is why the bones and muscles have a great capacity for repairing themselves, while joints, ligaments, and tendons may be slow to heal if at all. Without a modern intervention, lost cartilage and volume of intervertebral discs are unable to reverse their effects, and patients are expected to make adjustments to these changes. In conditions such as Degenerative Joint Disease of the Spine, a doctor's treatment program involves pain medications (which all have long-term side effects), physical therapy, and possibly psychological counseling to teach patients coping skills in order manage the effects of chronic pain. Typically, none of the treatments prescribed by doctors to manage/treat chronic back pain actually involve repairing the structures that are the source of pain. That's because of two reasons.
  • As we approach our peak height and physical condition, our body continues to be able to produce new healthy tissue at a faster rate than at which our older tissues wear out and lose functioning. From the time we become fully grown, the rates of these processes reverses, and our cells and tissues begin to stop functioning at a faster rate than which our body produces new healthy tissues. The gap between the rates of these processes widens as we get older.
  • The cartilage and synovial membranes in joints, intervertebral discs of the spine, and soft tissues of our body are poorly supplied with blood vessels. Thus, these structures are much slower to heal than other body structures, if fully at all. In order for soft tissues are able to heal from injury and regenerate themselves, they must have a supply of blood to allow for the building of new healthy tissues, and a transportation system for reabsorption of damaged or worn out cells and cell components. The natural soft tissue repair process involves Bleeding > Clot Formation > Inflammation > Proliferation > Tissue Repair > Tissue Remodeling. Because the joints and soft tissues are so avascular, the repair process is not able to initiate the first two steps of the process - Bleeding and clot formation.

Stem cells and stem cell therapy show a lot of promise as a back pain treatment in the future. Stem cells may be collected from embryonic stem cells as well as from our own adult cells in our dental pulp, breast milk, fat, muscle, bone marrow, and blood. Though embryonic stem cells get the most attention in the news, our own body is able to make new cells at any age, using adult stem cells. Of course the reason that we age is due to the fact that our own stem cells can only multiple a set amount of times before the process stops, and because our adult stem cells regenerate at a slower rate as we get older.

The idea behind stem cell therapy is to isolate and then collect cell lines that are programmed to divide into a certain kind of tissue, and then to insert these stem cell lines into a degenerated area. Once the stem cell lines have been implanted into degenerated tissues, they will continue to divide until those tissues are re-grown.