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YOUR HEALTH: New relief for lower back pain

It's a new biologic solution that repairs torn discs and eliminates pain.

GLEN MILLS, Pa. — Up to 80% of all Americans will have lower back pain at some point in their lives and annular tears are often the culprit. 

"It's a test of human spirit," said Neil Barr.

Annular tears are injuries that develop in the discs, the so-called "shock absorbers" cushioning the vertebrae in the spine.

Now, orthopedic specialists are using a minimally invasive procedure to heal the tears in the disc.

For Neil, who as a triathlete spends hours on his feet and on his bike, chronic back pain caused by a congenital condition tested his limits for decades.

But it got worse four years ago.

"It was right on the bone or right in the disc," he said

Neil had an annular tear in a spinal disc and the material inside his disc was leaking out, causing inflammation. 

He wanted to avoid a spinal fusion, which would have limited his movement. 

Sports medicine specialist Dr. Brian Shiple recommended a regenerative procedure called the Discseel.

Doctors take a synthetic material called fibrin and inject it into the damaged disc.

"It becomes like thick glue that they use to seal things instead of maybe they reinforce sutures or instead of sutures," Shiple said.

The fibrin encourages the growth of new tissue, causing the disc tear to close up so the pain goes away.

"At the two-month mark he was pain-free and training hard," Shiple recalled.

Neil is preparing for his first post-COVID race with a back that feels as good as new.

"Back to just being thankful that I can get on the saddle without any pain," he said.

Fibrin was first approved by the FDA for use in facial reconstruction, repairing the spleen and controlling cardiac bleeding during surgery because it heals tissue that can't be sutured.

What is chronic pain?

Any pain that lasts longer than three to six months is considered chronic pain.

The pain can become progressively worse and reoccur from time to time, outlasting the usual healing process.

After injured tissue heals, pain is expected to stop once the underlying cause is treated. 

But chronic pain can persist after injuries heal for no apparent biological cause.

Low back pain, headache and arthritic pain are the most common sources of chronic pain.

Chronic pain can cause significant psychological and emotional trauma, and often limits an individual's ability to fully function.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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