Nerves are key to the function of the nervous system. Without nerves, the brain would not be able to properly communicate with the rest of the body. The entire nervous system consists of more than 100 billion nerve cells (neurons), which all play a role in the nervous system. Damaging critical nerves in the spinal cord can have drastic effects on a patient’s quality of life. One of the most important nerves in the human body is the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve keeps the brain in contact with the lower half of the body. When a patient damages the sciatic nerve it can result in a chronic pain condition known as sciatica. This condition may affect up to 40% of people at some point in their lives.
Damaging the sciatic nerve is not the only way that a patient can develop sciatica; patients can also develop the condition as a result of other back problems, such as spinal stenosis. These conditions can put added pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can cause sciatica. Regardless of the cause of sciatica, the condition can impact a patient’s quality of life.
If a patient does not seek treatment for sciatic nerve pain, then the pain will likely become worse over time. The medical community has developed some treatments in order to help patients that are suffering from sciatic nerve pain. Many patients will find that these treatments can help relieve the level of pain they are experiencing, but there are patients who do not respond to these treatments or they have severe cases of the condition.
For patients that damage their sciatic nerve, the treatment options are rather limited. Attempting to reverse nerve damage is a task that the medical community has been attempting to solve for decades. Medical researchers have been looking into alternative treatments for patients that have suffered from permanent sciatic nerve damage.
Stem cell therapy may hold the secrets to helping patients who are suffering from sciatic nerve injury. Patients may be able to utilize stem cells in order to restore the proper function of various nerves in the spinal cord, including the sciatic nerve. Before we discuss how stem cells can help, let’s get a better understanding of the sciatic nerve and the role it plays in the nervous system.
What Is The Sciatic Nerve?
There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves and roots that run through the spinal cord. At each vertebral level, eight pairs of cervical spinal nerves will exit the spinal cord. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body. This nerve is formed from the union of five separate nerve roots that are located in the lower spine. The sciatic nerve does not end at the spine even though that is where it begins. The nerve passes through the buttocks down the back of the thigh and all the way down to the bottom of the foot.
The sciatic nerve has both sensory and motor functions. Nerves from the anterior and posterior areas of the spinal cord form the basis of the sciatic nerve. The nerve is at its largest width in the area of the spinal cord where the five nerve roots come together before traveling down the leg. The sciatic nerve plays a vital role in connecting the brain with the skin and muscles of the legs. Both motor and sensory functions are controlled by the sciatic nerve.
The branches of the sciatic nerve control most of the nerve sensation below the knee. When the sciatic nerve is negatively affected it can impact how the brain is able to communicate with the lower half of the body.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is negatively impacted in the body. The sciatic nerve does not properly function and can send pain signals to the brain when there is no outside stimulus causing that pain. Sciatica originates in the lower back and the pain radiates down the leg. The sciatic nerve may also have difficulty processing signals from the brain, which can lead to additional issues.
Sciatica can result from several different causes. Mechanical compression of the sciatic nerve can end up being one of the main causes of sciatica. Degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, spinal instability, and other back-related ailments can all put immense amounts of pressure on the sciatic nerve. According to some research up to 90% of sciatica cases are the result of a herniated disc. This pressure can affect the function of the sciatic nerve and negatively impact the quality of life of a patient.
Nerve damage can greatly affect the sciatic nerve and its ability to properly function. Patients that are in car accidents or other traumatic events can easily damage the sciatic nerve and end up developing sciatica. When a nerve becomes damaged through pressure, cutting, or stretching, the nerve may not be able to properly process signals to and from the brain.
There are other less common causes of sciatica. Spinal tumors can put immense pressure on the sciatic nerve, but thankfully these types of tumors are relatively rare. A spinal infection can damage the nerve if not treated properly. Pregnancy can also put additional pressure on the sciatic nerve. Some medications may also have sciatica as a side effect.
Some researchers believe that leaked chemicals from discs that are damaged can also cause sciatica. There may be some reaction between the sciatic nerve and chemicals that are secreted, such as hyaluronic acid. Additionally, the immune system could play a role in the development of the condition as well. Patients with sciatica have higher levels of inflammation, which could be due to a reaction from the immune system.
Even an insufficiency of vitamin B12 can cause sciatica in some patients. Vitamin B12 is a key nutrient for the body in the formation of the myelin sheath that covers nerves. The myelin sheath allows electrical impulses to travel quickly through the nervous system. When the myelin sheath is damaged or weakened, the result can be sciatica. Sciatica from a lack of B12 is more common in patients that are over the age of 60. Patients with diabetes are also prone to develop this condition due to malabsorption.
Patients typically have common symptoms when it comes to sciatica.
- Numbness in the lower back and legs
- Pain in the lower back and legs
- Weakness in the lower back and legs
In extreme cases of sciatica when the sciatic nerve becomes damaged, the patient could become paralyzed in the lower legs. Patients may also lose control of their bowels and bladder if the nerve damage is severe enough. Thankfully, patients with sciatic nerve damage do have some treatment options they can use in order to manage their symptoms. Let’s discuss some of the current treatment options that patients with sciatica have access to in order to treat their condition.
Current Treatment Options
Treating sciatica can be a tricky process. It may take weeks or months for physicians to properly diagnose what is causing the condition to develop. The treatment protocols will vary greatly depending on the cause of the sciatica. If a patient has permanent nerve damage, their treatment plan will look very different than if the sciatica is a result of degenerative disc disease.
Once a nerve has become damaged, it is extremely difficult to reverse that damage. The medical community may be able to reduce the level of pressure the sciatic nerve is under, depending on the patient’s case. However, many treatment options are generally focused on managing the pain.
Medical professionals will typically recommend medication as the first line of defense in fighting sciatica. Inflammation is a common sign of sciatica, so many physicians will recommend taking an anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin. For patients with mild cases of sciatica who only have slight flare-ups every now and then, medication will usually be an acceptable option.
Long-term use of this type of medication is generally discouraged, especially if the patient is taking the medication every day. Opioids can also be used in the short term to manage flare-ups. There are always addiction concerns when a patient is taking opioids. Again, opioids generally are not a long-term solution for patients with sciatic nerve pain.
Steroid injections can also be used to manage symptoms. Steroid injections are useful in reducing inflammation, which is common in sciatica. The injections can also take place near the sciatic nerve, which may reduce the number of pain signals that the nerve can transmit. This will not solve the underlying problem, but it can provide temporary pain relief for multiple weeks at a time. Steroid injections can also damage cartilage and tissue over time.
Patients that have continued long-term pain generally will have to seek out other treatment options besides medication.
Physical therapy can be used in combination with medication in order to achieve more favorable patient outcomes. Exercise in general is great for more musculoskeletal disorders, including sciatica. Strengthening the various muscles in the legs and lower back should help take some of the pressure off of the sciatic nerve.
Stretching and certain exercises may be able to increase the blood flow to the sciatic nerve, which could improve flexibility and reduce pain levels. A physical therapist would likely create a customized workout program in order to address a patient’s unique needs. If neither physical therapy or medication work, there are some alternative treatments that patients can experiment with before resorting to surgery.
There are a few alternative treatments that patients with sciatica can try in order to manage their symptoms. Massage therapy is a short-term relatively effective form of treatment for patients with sciatica. A massage can help increase the amount of blood flow to the sciatic nerve, which should reduce the level of symptoms. Patients who have sciatica may not be able to afford regular massages and insurance will likely not cover it.
Acupuncture is another treatment method that patients may have some success with. When a patient receives acupuncture they will have small needles pushed into their skin around the affected area. Researchers believe that this stimulates the sciatic nerve, which can improve signaling. Some research claims that acupuncture is actually more effective than medication in treating sciatica. Additionally, there are few if any side effects from acupuncture as compared to traditional medication.
A chiropractor may also be able to help reduce the level of symptoms that a patient experiences. This treatment method could help address some of the underlying issues, such as spinal stenosis. Manually manipulating the spine could create a better healing environment for the spinal cord. If all other treatments fail, patients may have to resort to surgical intervention.
In severe cases, some patients with sciatica or sciatic nerve damage may have to go under the knife in order to treat their condition. Patients that have difficulties controlling their bladder and bowels or have extreme weakness in their lower body may have to consider surgery. Patients that have attempted other treatment methods for multiple months may feel that there is no other choice, but to receive surgery.
Surgery is generally focused on relieving pressure on the sciatic nerve. The two most common surgeries for sciatica are discectomy and a microdiscectomy, due to the fact that sciatica is most commonly caused by a herniated disc. In both procedures, part of the disc or the entire disc in the spinal cord is removed in order to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Surgery always comes with the risk of complications, such as infection and in rare cases death.
Additionally, if the first surgery fails then it is likely that additional back surgeries will fail to solve the issue as well. Failed back surgery syndrome is a relatively new medical term that describes the prevalence of failed back surgeries. Patients who do not have a successful first surgery will likely continue to deal with sciatic nerve issues.
There are still many patients with sciatica who do not respond to conventional treatment methods. These patients are left with few options and may feel hopeless. Researchers are looking into alternative treatments for these patients. Stem cell therapy may be a viable treatment method for patients who are suffering from sciatic nerve pain.
Stem Cell Therapy For The Sciatic Nerve
Patients who do not respond to conventional treatments have to look elsewhere for some form of relief. Stem cells have long been hailed as the path forward to developing therapies for diseases and conditions that conventional medicine is not able to properly treat. The medical community is hopeful that stem cell therapy may be able to help patients with sciatic nerve damage.
Stem cells have incredible regenerative capabilities. Stem cells release a number of growth factors that encourage the body to repair itself and stem cells can differentiate into nearly any cell in the human body. Patients who have suffered permanent nerve damage may be able to utilize stem cells in order to treat Stem cell therapy has been shown to be able to treat patients who are suffering nerve-related issues and pain.
Stem cell therapy is also effective in reducing the amount of inflammation present in the area that they are introduced in. The immune system and stem cells are able to communicate with each other. Some researchers believe that stem cells can greatly reduce the level of inflammation in patients with sciatica.
Additionally, if a patient has sciatica from another back-related issue, such as degenerative disc disease, then stem cells may be able to address the underlying cause to reduce the pain level that a patient is experiencing. Overall, stem cells are an extremely promising treatment method for patients who are suffering from sciatica.
The hope that stem cells can treat sciatic nerve damage and sciatica is not just a hope. There is real research that showcases how stem cell therapy can help patients who are suffering from sciatic nerve damage.
Promising Research In Treating Sciatica And Sciatic Nerve Injury
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences were interested in exploring how powerful stem cells would be in treating damage to the sciatic nerve. First, in the laboratory, the researchers cultured stem cells and found that if specific nerve-growth factors were prompted that the stem cells would differentiate into neurons and glial support cells. They also found that the stem cells could form into the myelin sheath around axons of neurons to improve the conduction of nerve impulses. The next step was to take the stem cells from the laboratory and put them in mice.
The mice were given a surgically created defect in their right sciatic nerve. The researchers then injected the mice with stem cells into the right sciatic nerve and observed the mice over a period of 72 weeks. After just six weeks, the right sciatic nerve had completely regenerated in the mice that were injected with stem cells. The group of mice that were not given stem cells had limited nerve regrowth and functionality. After 12 weeks, the stem cell-treated mice were able to balance both legs at the same level.
The group of mice that were treated with stem cells also had restored their gait. Finally, after 72 weeks, only the stem cell-treated mice had regained normal muscle as compared to the group that went untreated. The study showcased that stem cells were able to create non-neuronal support cells that helped to encourage the regeneration of the damaged nerve fiber. In the future, the researchers hope to utilize a type of gel to hold the stem cells in place in order, so that they can encourage the regeneration at the damaged site.
Researchers were looking to test the potential of stem cells to restore the abilities of the sciatic nerve after being damaged. The researchers experimented on rats by damaging their sciatic nerves. Researchers would then evaluate if stem cells could help repair the damaged nerves. Some rats in the study were also given hindlimb transplants in order to evaluate the nerve regeneration in that type of situation.
The rats that were treated with either local injections of stem cells or systematic injections of stem cells improved greatly. Both groups of rats had significant improvements in recovery speed and had higher nerve axon counts as compared to the group that did not receive stem cells. The group of rats that also received hindlimb transplants had improved nerve regeneration as well, whether the stem cells were administered systemically or locally.
An interesting note that researchers found was that the administration of the stem cells played a significant role in how the rats recovered. The group that received stem cells via systemic administration had a more effective recovery in terms of electromotor recovery, while local injections were more effective in increasing the fiber counts of the sciatic nerves. The systemic administration of stem cells may have been able to reach more damaged nerves throughout the rat’s body to improve motor function.
Overall, stem cells were able to improve the speed of regeneration and the amount of regeneration after suffering from nerve injuries. This study further showcases the potential of stem cell therapy in order to treat sciatic nerve injury.
BioXcellerator has worked with patients who have suffered from various forms of nerve damage. At our innovative stem cell clinic in Medellin, Colombia, we treat patients with the most advanced regenerative medicine techniques that are currently available. Patients who have suffered from sciatic nerve pain for years come to our clinic in order to receive treatment that they cannot receive in the United States or around the world. Our team is more than capable of creating a customized, unique treatment plan in order to address a patient’s unique sciatic nerve injury case.
We are always working to push the future of regenerative medicine forward. One way that our team is doing just that is through the creation of a new form of stem cell therapy that we call golden cells.
Quality is everything when it comes to medical treatments. A big question that has come up in the stem cell industry is the quality and consistency of treatments. Unfortunately, there are some concerns when it comes to the quality of the stem cells that are being used in some stem cell clinics. Some stem cell clinics may be using subpar stem cells that may not be able to adequately address a patient’s underlying conditions.
In order to better treat our patients, the BioXcellerator team developed an exceptional quality assurance stem cell process. More or less, this quality process eliminates stem cells that are less potent. We can identify stem cells that have the highest therapeutic potential and only use these stem cells in our treatments. We have named the resulting stem cells, ‘golden cells.’
Our team believes that golden cells will be able to heal sciatic nerves in a more effective manner than traditional stem cell treatments. The more potent the stem cells are, the more therapeutic potential they have. This should lead to better regenerative and anti-inflammatory capabilities, which should lead to better patient outcomes.
Reach out to your healthcare provider today to learn more about all potential treatment options for both sciatica and a sciatic nerve injury. Conventional treatment options are not the only options that can help patients improve their conditions. Stem cell therapy has the potential to improve your condition and quality of life. If the research continues in the direction that it is currently headed in, then it is likely that stem cells may be able to help patients recover from sciatic nerve damage.