GLEN MILLS, Pa. — When over-the-counter pain relievers, physical therapy and even yoga fail to ease an aching back, surgery may start to look like the only option.
But before going under the knife, some patients are opting for regenerative medicine.
They're using biological tissues from a patient's own body to heal an injury.
A Pennsylvania orthopedic specialist has designed a new biologic therapy called Spine Renu that is bringing many patients much-needed relief.
That includes Jeff Lane, a 50-year-old man with back pain that started in his 30s and over the years was sometimes excruciating.
"I just felt this shot of pain that went, literally, from my skull to my feet," he said.
Lane tried pain relievers, prescription meds, stretching, yoga and even back disc surgery but nothing brought long-lasting relief.
"I tried anything I could think of," he said.
That's when a friend referred him to orthopedic specialist Dr. Brian Shiple who developed one protocol he designed for disc problems, called Spine Renu.
"When we are performing our spine renew program, we're actually making four different products from the patient's blood and bone marrow," Shiple said.
He draws a patient's blood and makes platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, and a platelet product used to treat damaged, inflamed nerves.
Then, he extracts water from the left-over plasma to treat and heal the injured annular disc.
"It ends up with a very thick, yellow-looking fluid, and we inject that into the annular tear," Shiple said
Finally, Dr. Shiple treats the bony joints at the end of the spine with concentrated bone marrow.
"I was virtually pain-free the next day," said Lane.
The Spine Renu procedure is performed in the office as an outpatient procedure, using a tiny needle and X-ray guidance for the injections.
It is not covered by insurance and can run from $8,000 to $14,000.
Other treatment options
In addition to Spine Renu, a new technology called high-frequency neuromodulation can relieve symptoms of people suffering from chronic back pain.
High-frequency neuromodulation is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure.
Patients first undergo a trial procedure to "test drive" this technology for five to seven days during which both pain levels and activity are closely monitored.
Many patients become quite a bit more active during the trial and report sleeping much better.
Afterward, the stimulator leads are removed, and patients with successful trials will be candidates for the permanent implant.
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