Stem cells are very quickly, becoming a much more accepted way of treating various ailments. As research in the field progresses, scientists are quickly finding more and more ways to apply it to people’s health. One such way that is rapidly gaining popularity is using stem cells in place of steroids to treat conditions, such as degenerative disc disease.
Before we jump into how stem cells can help treat degenerative disc disease, it may be helpful to understand what degenerative disc disease is. Let’s get into the basics so that you can understand what stem cells can do for your condition.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease is a common ailment that can affect people of all ages and happen all across the spine. It is a blanket term that describes the general degradation of spinal discs due to the wear and tear of daily life. The spine consists of 33 bones known as vertebrae, and these are connected via ligaments and inter vertebral discs.
The discs add flexibility to the spine and act as shock absorbers as well. Although these discs are capable of withstanding disturbances, repeated trauma to them can start to crack and cause the discs to begin to harden. This condition occurs because the cartilage in the spin wears down from daily activities or trauma. After some time, the cartilage will be gone and will not be able to absorb the shocks of daily activities. This condition is a common source of chronic pain for people, with joint pain in the hands, neck, lower back, knees, or hips being the most common symptoms.
Degenerative disc disease can be challenging to diagnose and requires an MRI to be able to see the damaged discs, which appear darker in the MRI imaging. There are various treatments that people can try, but the disease itself currently has no cure. If scientists can continue their research into using stem cells to help with degenerative disc disease, they might be able to change that. One of the most common treatments for degenerative disc disease is steroids.
Using Steroids to Help Degenerative Disc Disease
Treatments for this condition have a wide range, with some people only needing physical therapy to help ease the pain it causes where others undergo surgery to try to correct the issue. Physical therapy will help strengthen the muscles around the damaged disc, but will not solve the root of the problem.
No method is guaranteed to solve the problem, but one way that has been working for patients is the use of steroids. The medical use of steroids is occasionally confused with the athletic use that professional athletes sometimes employ, but this is different. Epidural steroid injections are a method of pain management that can help ease a person who is dealing with chronic pain from this disease.
This procedure works because steroids are a potent anti-inflammatory medication that, when injected around a damaged disc, can help assuage the pain by reducing the sensitivity of the nerve ending and reducing inflammation around the disc. This treatment may solve the patient’s pain in the short term; however, there are some serious long-term consequences to extended steroid use.
There have been several studies that have shown steroids cause damage to the cartilage in the discs over a long period. Steroids were once the go-to treatment for degenerative disc disease, but recently the thinking has shifted. Orthopedic surgeons are beginning to see the long-term effects of steroid use, and they are not pleased with the results.
The pain may subside, but the cartilage will continue to wear down over time. Patients may feel that they are fine and will resume normal activities. This approach is a massive issue because the same activities that caused degenerative disc disease will destroy any cartilage that is in the discs. Patients will be left in a worse position than they started. The cartilage in their discs will be gone entirely, and the discs will be rubbing together, which will cause intense pain.
Steroids can help many patients who are suffering from disc-related chronic pain in the short term, which may satisfy many patients. However, if steroids are not able to help reduce pain and inflammation, patients are left with few options. Usually, the next step is to have surgery. This surgery requires trying to remove the damaged parts of a disc or replacing the damaged disc altogether.
Spinal surgery usually has long recovery times that dissuade many people from taking that route, but now they may finally have another option. Thankfully, stem cells are beginning to prove themselves as a viable way of treating degenerative disc disease due to their innate regenerative power that can slowly work to undo the damage.
Stem Cells to the Rescue!
Stem cells have regenerative properties that make them a prime candidate for these kinds of diseases. As stem cell research has expanded, scientists have been finding increasingly more ways to apply stem cells to help people fight diseases. Stem cells are very good at assisting bolster bodily functions such as the immune system, which makes them a prime candidate to help fight diseases.
For example, clinical studies have shown that they are exceptionally good at helping fight respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia because of their abilities to not only strengthen the immune system but also reduce the deadly inflammation that can worsen diseases such as these. Their regenerative properties also make them perfect for helping treat injuries that do not heal quickly or naturally and cause people ongoing pain.
Stem Cell Therapy for Degenerative Disc Disease
Stem cells are growing increasingly common in the use of helping athletes rehabilitate injuries to joints and ligaments, allowing them to forego surgeries that often require them to be out of their sport for months to even years. These reasons combined make for stem cells are so effective at fighting conditions like degenerative disc disease.
By using mesenchymal stem cells, doctors have been able to help people repair their discs and rid themselves of pain in as few as six months. The research is not quite there yet, but it undoubtedly promises research that shows the true extent of what stem cells can do. This is because mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are undifferentiated stem cells that are prepared for this exact kind of job within the body.
They are present in almost all human tissue, and the primary function of these stem cells is to support standard repair and rejuvenation of diseased and aging tissues. This is because, as cells age, they accrue damage, but MSCs can go to where the body needs and replace the damaged cells. Stem cells that are present in the body are not as active as the stem cells when you were younger. Children bounce back from injuries, meanwhile the elderly struggle to get back to their usual selves. MSCs can differentiate themselves into connective tissue that can help your back slowly rebuild as necessary to resume its normal functions.
A Bright, Pain-Free Future
Although this is still being researched and studied, the use of stem cells could prove to be a very effective way to help fight degenerative disc disease and many other ailments similar to it. Thanks to incredible regenerative properties of MSCs, people have been able to see drastic improvements in a condition that is liable to be a significant hindrance to someone’s life and cause them a great deal of ongoing pain.
Using stem cells as a replacement for steroid injections is far from being a cure. Still, it presents a bright future for the field of regenerative medicine as stem cells have once again shown that they can contend with seemingly any disease or ailment and help people have an increased quality of life due to their presence. As research continues to evolve in this ever-growing field, it only becomes more likely that stem cells will become a mainstream way of treating degenerative disc disease and possibly, many other conditions as well.
Reach out to bioxcellerator if stem cell therapy could be a potential treatment for your degenerative disc disease. You could go from living with intense pain to living a pain-free life in a matter of months. Your quality of life will dramatically improve if you are a proper stem cell candidate.