Should You Get a Disc Stem Cell Injection? It Depends…

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If you read this blog, you know that we sometimes use stem cells to treat low-back discs, but only in select patients. Being the first clinic on earth to perform disc stem cell injections, we’ve learned that they are not a panacea and they don’t work in every type of disc disease. However, when you have the right type of patient, the procedure can be a game changer. This past week, unsolicited, I was contacted by a grateful patient from three years ago, and I thought his disc stem cell outcome should be shared.

The Stem Cell Wild West and Low-Back Discs

While we have been selective in injecting low-back discs with stem cell treatments, many clinics just seem to inject any type of low-back disc. This is because, for these clinics, the hype clouds good judgment. They don’t have extensive experience in this area as they just learned how to do this at a weekend course. For a quick tutorial on the type of discs that we have seen respond to a stem cell treatment, click on the video below:

Learn about Regenexx procedures for spine conditions.

Robert’s Story

Robert was a long-standing patient who I had successfully treated for years. I began using our third-generation platelet rich plasma (PRP) and our fourth-generation platelet lysate to inject his facet joints and around irritated nerves (epidural). He did well for a few years with that approach and would have greatly reduced pain for about a year at a time. However, he injured his back doing something, and everything seemed to change. After that, the therapies that had been successful didn’t seem to work any longer. His new MRI showed a tear in the back of his disc, and his symptoms matched that of chronic disc pain. Hence, in 2014, I injected his painful disc using a same-day bone marrow stem cell procedure (our second-generation bone marrow concentrate). I’ll let Robert tell the rest of his story from here:

“Dr. Centeno and Staff-

It has been 3 years since stem cell therapy injection into my lower 5th disc and I can’t be happier with the outcome.

July of 2013 I was 50 years old and in a hotel room that turned into pure misery. My lower disc was radiating so much pain, I couldn’t sit in the chair without extreme pain and I couldn’t sleep on the bed. I resorted to laying on the floor and getting 3 straight hours of sleep was a miracle. Riding in the car to go out to eat was miserable. The injury to my spine from playing high school football was getting worse and caught up to me. I thought my destiny would be a wheel chair for the remainder of my life.

After my procedure last week of August 2013 I needed crutches to leave your office…After a few days I could walk around without crutches however couldn’t go far. The healing process was starting and I knew it would take a while. By December I felt like a new person. The radiating pain that I normally felt shooting out of the right side of my lower disc was a dull sensation. It would slowly go away after months and I didn’t notice it anymore. Getting dressed and putting my shoes on became easier.

Summer of 2014 I would still get real sore after doing light yard work. I tried just cutting the lawn without bending over to pick weeds. Sometimes I would get so sore I thought I was going to be back to pre-stem cell therapy condition. I would just quit and call it a day. I would only get sore if I was bending forward and using my back.

I only got better and stronger. I could actually shovel light snow winter of 2014-2015. I bought a snow blower for the driveway and only hand shoveled around the walk and entrance. I could also walk 45 minutes to an hour before my lower back would get sore.

2016 to current date August of 2017 has been incredible. I don’t feel the lump of pain coming out of my disc and I’m stronger than I thought I would achieve. I can drive my car on long trips and not worry about pain. I can do some yard work without worrying about the need for sitting down for the rest of the day with a bag of ice on my lower back.

The key to my pain management has been knowing my limits. I try not to bend over and reach for anything except putting my shoes on.

I have had to make adjustments to my athletic life. I’ve played sports and have exercised and worked out at a gym my entire life. In my 20’s I couldn’t get enough mountain biking. I still ride bikes. However I gave up the mountain bike where you have to bend your body forward to reach the handle bars. I have a street bike that is more traditional where your body is more upright. I have been riding 15 miles a day, a little more than an hour, all summer long. If I ride more than 1.5 hr’s I will start to get sore in the lower disc area.

I’m a life long golfer and had to give up golf. The pivot of the golf swing is just too much torque on my lower spine. When the fairway iron hits the ground and the golf ball at the same time, the shock wave travels thru my spine and I would get too sore. I don’t want to chance ending up with another injury so I just don’t play golf. I’m over it. I’m one big happy camper just to get a great night of full sleep and roll out of bed without pain.

I can’t thank you and your staff at the Centeno clinic enough. I am walking proof that stem cell therapy works. I wish the best recovery for all of your patients and hope they are a success story like me.

Thank you-

Robert Laine”

So Robert isn’t perfect, but he’s dramatically better than he was prior to the disc stem cell injection. In addition, like other disc patients we have treated, his improvements have continued over the first 1–2 years and even beyond.

The upshot? Injecting the disc adds additional patient risks, and we can often help a patient’s pain without taking those risks. However, for some patients, injecting the disc with stem cells is likely the best move. Given that we have more experience injecting discs with stem cells than anyone else on earth, we’ve learned a thing or two about who is a good candidate and who should avoid this procedure.

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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