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Using Your Own Stem Cells for Spine Conditions

The Healthy Spine

The spine is a complex column of load-bearing vertebral bones that relies on surrounding muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues for proper function. Here is a brief overview of the properties of a healthy spine:

  • The vertebrae of the spine carry most of the weight of the human body on their front, round portion, called the "vertebral body"
  • These vertebral bodies are separated by shock absorbing cartilaginous discs. The discs are like jelly donuts, with a strong fibrous exterior and a gel interior.
  • The rear portions of the vertebrae are connected above and below by facet.

What is a Stem Cell Procedure?

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A stem cell procedure harnesses and amplifies the body's 

natural mechanism for healing (and anti-inflammation). This mechanism uses adult autologous stem cells derived from your own bone marrow.

In the procedure, the physician will aspirate bone marrow from the iliac crest of your pelvis, concentrate it, then deliver the concentrate to the injury site of the spine. In all, the process takes less than 45 minutes.

Depending on your condition, your doctor may decide to deliver the stem cells following an arthroscopic procedure to remove damaged cartilage or bone. This will not affect the procedure; it allows the surgeon to visualize the target site.

Because your procedure will utilize a concentrated preparation of your own cells, the procedure is considered "autologous point-of-care". The procedure is fast, and in most cases can be completed with moderate sedation.

Problems of the Spine

Some common problems of the spine include:

  • Stenosis, or narrowing of nerve root passages
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Damaged, swollen, or inflamed facet joint

Who is a Good Candidate for a Stem Cell Procedure

The ideal recipient of a stem cell procedure is a patient that wants to use their body's own regenerative potential as an option to possibly delay or avoid invasive surgery.

Preparing for my Procedure

As with any medical procedure, it is important to consult your physician about preparation.

Refrain from anti-inflammatory medication 7 days prior to procedure and 14 days post procedure.

What Can I Expect Post-Procedure?

Stem cell procedures are usually done as an outpatient, meaning there is no need for an overnight hospital stay. Most patients should expect to walk out of the clinic and resume low-impact activities immediately.

Some patients have reported experiencing mild pain for the first 48-72 hours post-procedure. In most cases, this is due to the absence of their normal anti-inflammatory and pain relief drugs. After this period, most patients experience a gradual decrease in pain, with some experiencing sustained pain relief. Soon afterward, patients may see improved function.


When Can I Resume Physical Activity?

The most important part of any stem cell therapy is adhering to your post-procedure restrictions. For the procedure to have the best change to yield lasting benefit, most physicians strongly recommend:

  • Refrain from anti-inflammatory medication 7 days prior to procedure and 14 days post procedure.
  • Rest for the first 24-48 hrs
  • Restrict the joint to "general use" for the first two weeks
  • For weeks 3-4, walking and cardio are allowed
  • After 4 weeks, weightlifting and running are permitted
  • Pay attention to your joints as you resume normal activity