According to the CDC, eight out of ten Americans will experience back problems at some point in their lifetimes. In fact, Americans spend 50 billion dollars on back pain treatments every year, and the indirect costs (including lost wages, legal, and insurance) are upwards of 100 billion dollars annually.
While 90 percent of lower back pain cases are resolved within six weeks, 7 percent of those affected will develop chronic back pain requiring advanced treatment. Proper diagnosis is the key to developing a treatment plan. Most cases of back pain are related to misalignment of the spine and muscular issues, and will not require or benefit from surgery as the first line of treatment.
For cases of chronic low back pain that require advanced treatment, laser spine surgery is often offered as a minimally-invasive procedure to attempt to alleviate the patient’s pain. In other cases, more traditional back surgery may be suggested by a doctor.
Is laser spine surgery or back surgery the only option for patients to treat their lower back chronic pain?
There is a viable alternative to laser spine surgery and traditional back surgery options. It is regenerative stem cell therapy.
First, let’s take a look at laser spine surgery – what it is, how it’s used, what it is effective at treating, and the potential risks involved with the procedure.
Second, we will discuss regenerative stem cell therapy.
While many patients believe that laser spine surgery is an experimental treatment, the fact is that the holmium laser was approved for use in orthopedics and spine surgery in the 1980s. Laser spine surgery is often advertised as a safer, minimally-invasive procedure compared to the traditional “open” spine surgery. It can be performed through an incision as small as 1/4” providing more comfort to the patient, less soft tissue disruption and faster recovery time.
The process consists of the surgeon making a small incision to allow the insertion of a small tube through which a fiber optic holmium laser is inserted. The main benefit of using the laser in a small tube is that it doesn’t take up much room and it can deliver a very powerful beam of energy. Soft tissue and soft tissue bleeders respond well to the heat of the laser because of their water content. The laser cuts, cauterizes, or vaporizes the soft tissues. The beam is very small and can be accurately aimed at a specific target without injuring nearby tissue.
While the laser is an effective tool for certain types of spinal surgery, it may not be the first choice for treatment. It is often used for the treatment of stenosis, facet syndrome, or sacroiliac joint syndrome. For bone related diagnoses such as bony spinal stenosis, laser surgery is not an effective treatment as the laser will not cut bone.
While laser spine surgery is a minimally-invasive procedure, like any form of surgery, there are potential risks. The procedure does require an incision and the laser itself can result in serious complications. These range from pain at the graft site, infection, excess bleeding, and blood clots, to more serious problems like nerve damage, complications from anesthesia, or leaking of spinal fluid.
One of the more common complaints after the procedure is that it does not provide enough relief of back pain.
While recovery is relatively quick, portions of soft tissue are often removed to reduce nerve compression which leads to pain.
Your body sends pain signals as warning signs of operational issues. Getting rid of that which causes pain is like putting a piece of tape over the check engine light in your car. It doesn’t fix the problem. Inflammation causes many issues, but it’s your body’s way of telling you there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
Destroying that which signals the brain doesn’t eliminate what caused the issue. With that in mind, for removing tumors or shrinking disk material around a nerve, laser spine surgery can be good; but it does act as a physically reductive agent in virtually all applications.
Due to risks, some people are unable to get surgeries due to co-morbidities (additional diseases or disorders). So, even if they want to have surgery, it isn’t an option.
Along with laser surgery, the traditional medical treatments for low back pain and herniated discs include physical therapy, exercise, pain medications, anti-inflammatories, and therapeutic injections. All of these treatments are aimed at restoring function and a normal life for the patients.
In more severe cases such as bony spinal stenosis, invasive surgeries like spinal fusion may be required. This can mean general anesthesia and long term physical therapy. In a large number of cases, even with surgery, ongoing pain and dysfunction can remain.
Today, patients have a second minimally-invasive and a completely non-surgical option to laser spine or traditional back surgery.
Regenerative stem cell therapy is a viable alternative for addressing issues that cause chronic lower back pain.
Treatment involves allowing your body to heal itself, using naturally occurring cells, and growth factors.
While treatment may be applied differently by other medical practices, we will explain how it is provided at our practice.
Renew Medical Centers provide advanced regenerative cell therapy (stem cell injections) combined with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and other regenerative treatments to treat orthopedic injuries, arthritis, and other degenerative conditions.
These regenerative treatments have a unique ability to assist your body in regenerating tissue, reducing pain, and reducing inflammation in damaged muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, spinal discs, and bone.
Lower back conditions treated with regenerative and stem cell therapy include:
With our procedures, we use ultrasound guidance for optimal results. Some other regenerative cell therapy providers do not use ultrasound guidance. Without ultrasound guidance, it is less likely the treatment will be placed in the problem area and address the issue.
Treatment is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure.
Regenerative and stem cell therapy is a low risk, viable alternative to surgery. As discussed, it is a completely different approach to treating chronic lower back pain.
As opposed to removing, shrinking, or fusing problematic areas with surgery, regenerative treatment gives the patient an opportunity for their body to heal degenerated and injured tissue.
With any medical treatment, there are no guarantees that it will or will not work for a patient. Each patient’s condition is unique. There are some cases where a patient will not be a candidate for regenerative treatment.
However, there are many cases where a patient is not a candidate for surgery but they are for regenerative treatment.
Before determining if a patient is a candidate for regenerative treatment at Renew Medical Centers, one of our doctors must first do a full diagnostic of the area of pain during a patient consultation.
When patients consider the possibility that regenerative and stem cell therapy may work for them, they often tell us, “Why risk having unneeded, unwanted surgery?”
Many patients who have had complications from surgery decide to get regenerative treatment in order to address the problems surgery created or did not address.
Other than the back and spine, areas treated also include knees, hips, shoulders, hands and wrists, feet and ankles, and more.
In this video, one of our patients discusses her experience with treatment for her lower back:
To learn more about regenerative medicine and treatment options, register to attend one of our free local classes, and get your questions answered.
If you would like to schedule a your patient consultation with one of our doctors at Renew Medical Centers and determine if you are a candidate.