Neck Epidural Failed? What to Do Next…

What’s your next move if your neck epidural failed to relieve your pain or numbness? Mary-Frances is an airline pilot who was looking at more surgery and not being able to pass an FAA physical. Rather than get that second surgery, we were able to help her with the Regenexx-DDD procedure after her neck epidural failed. She’s one of many such neck patients who we have saved from the scalpel.

Mary is a 62-year-old airline pilot who had a surgical fusion at the C3-C4 level of her neck in 2011. Things went fine for awhile,  but as is common with fusions, she began to get problems below the fusion. When we first evaluated her she had a two-month history of increasing lower neck pain that radiated into the left shoulder and thumb. She had tried acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, oral steroids, and epidural steroid injections. These provided only transient improvement.

So let’s break this down a bit. Mary (pictured above) had a fusion which takes a portion of the neck that was built to move and prevents it from moving. That force has to go somewhere, so it gets transmitted to the levels below which start having issues. So why didn’t her epidural steroid injection work? Like many patients with chronic neck or back issues, Mary’s problems involved more than just one structure. Many of these patients are “invisible” to the traditional pain management system, as the mantra there is to “find the pain generator”, which means find the one thing that’s causing the most pain. However, for Mary there were multiple things that were getting overloaded-the facet joints (small finger size joints in the back of the neck), the nerves, and the ligaments that act as the duct tape to hold the neck together. So why not treat all of these areas with something that’s regenerative rather than a steroid which is destructive? The Regenexx-DDD procedure focuses platelets (or stem cells in the worst cases) at all of these structures using ultra-precise imaging guided injections. The results from those injections? She was able to come off all narcotics, nerve pills, and NSAID anti-inflammatories while also passing her FAA physical and avoiding surgery.

The upshot? Our interventional pain management system is focused on finding the one pain generator, which works sometimes. However, many patients have many structures that hurt, which is where a procedure like the Regenexx-DDD procedure can help. In addition, since steroid injections can weaken bones and inhibit healing, why not ditch them in favor of using the healing potential of your own platelets or stem cells?

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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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