More than 80% of the population will at some time have problematic low back pain. Typically these episodes of low back pain improve with time, but some people have persistent issues. In fact, it is estimated that over 6 million people in the US have chronic low back pain that persists for at least three months.
The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics suggests that chronic low back pain is a leading cause of chronic pain. The total cost of low back pain is estimated to be between $100 billion and $200 billion annually. Much of this cost is related to decreased wages and productivity.
Studies suggest that discogenic pain, a painful degenerative disc, is the most common source of chronic low back pain. Unfortunately, there is no great treatment for painful degenerative discs and both conservative and surgical options often fall short in helping people with this issue.
Research at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center
The Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center has been a part of an exciting research study that evaluated the injection of stem cells into a patient’s painful degenerative disc. In the study, stem cells called mesenchymal precursor cells that come from bone marrow were injected into a painful degenerative disc.
The early interim analysis of this study is promising. At six months out, a single low dose injection of stem cells led to an average reduction in back pain of 69%. Additionally, 71% were considered to be a “treatment success” as defined by clinically significant improvement in pain and function. Both of these findings were significantly better than controls.
These are only preliminary results but it does provide optimism for a major condition that has been difficult to treat. We are not recruiting patients for this trial but another follow up study may start in a year.
If you are suffering from back or neck pain, you’ll find the comprehensive spine care you need at the Emory Spine Center in Atlanta, Georgia. At Emory, we have the most highly trained spine specialists in the country working together to diagnose and treat spinal disorders. You can call us at 404-778-7000 for appointments. We are on the web at http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/spine/
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About Dr. Beckworth
Dr. Beckworth is board certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (Physiatry), Electrodiagnostic Medicine and Pain Medicine. Dr. Beckworth has won multiple teacher of the year awards for the Department of PM&R residency program. He is a section editor for Spineline, a publication of the North American Spine Society. Dr. Beckworth started practicing at Emory in 2007. He has been involved in various research studies. A recent study dealing with anomalous location of the vertebral artery won “best basic science study” at the 20th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Spine Intervention Society. He has been invited as a board examiner for the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.