The back consists of 33 vertebrae, small bones that are each separated by a disc-shaped cushion of fibrocartilage known as an intervertebral disc. Each disc has a gel-like center (the nucleus pulposus) surrounded by a tough, fibrous ring (the annulus fibrosus). Together, the vertebrae and discs work to protect the spinal cord and brain, support the body and absorb shock, distributing our weight and providing stability and flexibility as we move. When damage occurs to any one of the back’s multiple parts, the pain can be unbearable and even life-altering; indeed, “back pain has been the leading cause of years lived with disability since 1990!” And while there are many different causes of back pain, a very common one is degenerative disc disease, which often results in annular tears. Take a look at what you need to know about degenerative disc disease and using stem cell therapy for annular tears:
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What is an Annular Tear?
An annular tear occurs when the outer ring of fibrous tissue that surrounds each intervertebral disc tears, either partially or fully. A common cause of an annular tear is age-related decay and normal wear and tear (often presenting as “degenerative disc disease”), but damage to the annulus fibrosus can also occur as a result of trauma (such as a sports injury, fall or other accident). Symptoms include pain (most often), as well as muscle spasm,weakness and limited range of motion or flexibility.
How Stem Cell Therapy for Annular Tears Work
To repair any type of cellular damage (like a tear in the annulus fibrosus), the body needs to supply reparative nutrients to the source of the problem via adequate blood supply. Thus, the circulatory system is a vital component of any wound healing sequence. Unfortunately, as we age, blood supply to the back — and especially to its discs — diminishes, making it harder for our bodies to repair problems, increasing natural disc deterioration and escalating the likelihood that an annular tear will occur. If and when this happens, however, there is a treatment option that offers patients the opportunity to therapeutically initiate cellular regeneration: stem cell therapy. Unlike traditional annular tear treatment options (like rest, physical therapy, medication and surgery), stem cell therapy for annular tears has the potential to facilitate new annulus fibrosus tissue growth, repair annular tears, and diminish the pain caused by nerve ingrowth into the torn disc.
During stem cell therapy for annular tears, a physician harvests special cells called adult stem cells from a patient’s own body. Over 50 years of research provides evidence that these stem cells can be harvested from tissues that contain a large supply of adult stem cells such as bone marrow and adipose tissue. These cells can then be injected directly into the patient’s damaged disc as a way to promote new annular tissue growth. In this way, the stem cells’ natural regenerative effects can be applied at the precise location they are needed for repair.
Want to Learn More?
Stem cell therapy for annular tears is a promising treatment option for many patients. To learn more about the process and whether or not you or a loved one might benefit from this type of procedure, please contact us. We carefully review all our patients’ histories and collaborate with them so that we only recommend the treatment(s) best suited for each one’s unique medical issue.