An Overview of Disc Injections
Degenerative disc disease affects millions of Americans, and compared to spinal arthritis, treatment options are not great. The disc has an extremely slow metabolism with minimal
ability to heal itself.
The intervertebral disc normally acts as an excellent shock absorber at each level of the spine. It is normally comprised of 80% water, and the rest includes proteins and collagen.
As disc degeneration occurs, water content can slowly leave the disc and pain can occur due to some tears in the outer disk (the annulus). The inner part of the disk actually has no nerve endings and feels no pain (the nucleus pulposus).
For the pain of degenerative disc disease, pain management doctors in Los Angeles will at times perform steroid injections directly into the disk space. A study in Spine looking at these injections showed that they can provide excellent benefit for months at a time for those suffering from degenerative disc disease pain.
Steroid injections into the disc do not have any healing qualities, and are only meant to provide temporary pain relief. For that, they work very well. Like most current pain management treatments, they suppress pain by acting as a proverbial “Band Aid”.
Currently, there are ongoing studies looking at two additional injection medications. Both are in the regenerative medicine category, which have the potential to repair and regenerate normal disc tissue.
Normally, the intervertebral disc has avery poor blood supply and an extremely limited ability to heal. However, injections of stem cell material can alter disability and has the potential to help the disc regenerate and regain better shock absorbing capabilities.
Stem cell injection substances are derived from either the patient’s own body or from an
outside source. A patient’s own body may provide bone marrow or fat derived cells. The stem cells may also be obtained from outside the body, and the best substance available so far is an amniotic membrane derived stem cell rich material.
Studies are ongoing regarding stem cell injections into the disc. One FDA clinical trial is now in Phase II evaluation with Mesoblast. Ten pain management clinics participated in the Phase 1 trial.
The additional regenerative medicine injection is with platelet rich plasma. For this injection, also known as PRP therapy, a normal blood draw is taken from the patient’s arm, and whole blood is spun down in a centrifuge to obtain the platelet rich plasma. PRP includes platelets and growth factors which have the potential to regenerate disc material as well. In addition, PRP acts as a great attractant for stem cells in the body, which can also potentially repair disc tissue.
Overall, degenerative disc disease is often able to be treated nonoperatively with a combination of treatments. These may include chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, medication management, and injections.
If you or a loved one lives in the greater Los Angeles area and is suffering from chronic back pain, let the California Pain Network help you. The network connects those in pain with the best pain clinics in Los Angeles. Simply fill out the contact form or call (310) 626-1526 today!