Stem Cells, Walking and Back Pain

Stem Cells, Walking and Back Pain

Allowing this reporter some editorial license because I’ve been suffering from back pain (probably degenerative disc) for the last month, a couple of stories caught my attention this week. 

A Los Angeles neurosurgeon has defended the use of stem cells for back pain relief. Dr. Todd Gravori is director of ProMedSpine in Beverly Hills who says he’s experienced success in using stem cells to stop the progression of degenerative disc disease. 

Gravori also pointed out that stem cells can not only restore discs, they can also be used for improving the effects of spinal fusion surgery (which I’ve never had thankfully). Dr. Gravori says the cells help grow the new bone without bone grafts or donors.

He also pointed out that stem cells can reduce infection following surgeries, limit scarring and could make certain back surgeries even more effective with the regenerative capabilities. 

“The future of spinal surgery and back treatments lies with stem cells,” said Dr. Gravori. “As technology becomes more sophisticated and doctors learn more about what these cells are capable of, treatment for spinal conditions will be revolutionized.”

We’ll contact Dr. Gravori for a deeper story in the future. His comments published here were found in Becker’s Orthopedic.

While my own back pain is recurring, I haven’t seen a spine doctor yet (going this Friday). I’ve been trying to rehab this through exercise, anti-inflammatories and even tried some chiropractic treatment for the first time.  My condition has improved about 80%, but still have trouble rotating which is tough on a guy who likes to golf. 

That’s why this story from Ireland caught my attention.

Internationally-renowned sports injury specialist Gerard Hartmann says  in the Irish Examiner just 40 minutes of brisk walking, five days a week, is all it takes to beat the debilitating condition that affects tens of million world wide.

Back pain and other musculo-skeletal disorders are the cause of 50% of sick days take annually in Ireland.

Sufferers spend fortunes seeking a cure when, in many cases, a weekly walking programme will do the trick, says Hartmann, a Limerick-based physical therapist who heals the world’s elite athletes. Hartmann — whose clients include runners Sonia O’Sullivan and Cathy Freeman — says: “When we feel pain, the instinct is to rest, but with back pain, it’s movement that works.

Good, brisk walking, performed well and often, with good posture and suitable footwear, is very effective in healing back pain and its causes. Even three or four times a week of walking for a half an hour up to an hour will reduce back pain up by 50%.”

It reduces pain through “the gate control theory”, which says the brain cannot take pain messages from smaller muscles while busy with bigger muscles.

However, there are contra-indications: If people have shooting pains down their leg or numbness, or cannot physically walk with the pain, then they need to see their doctor before attempting any activity. It could be a ruptured disc putting pressure on a nerve, or something more serious.

If you have back pain issues, let us know what works for you. (if anything!)

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Dennis J. Capolongo / EDNC at 9:55 pm

    I have no doubt that stem-cell therapies of the future will hold the promise of a cure for those suffering from spinal related chronic pain. In the meantime we should be cautious since stem cell research is still in its infancy by scientific standards. There were a few within my patient community that were victimized by stem-cell scams over the years. These scams left them either broke, in more pain or worse. Let the buyer beware as these stem-cell scammers are still prevalent and do prey on the desperation of those seeking the promised miracle of pain relief.

    Because there have been numerous reports of fraudulent stem-cell therapies, the FDA has issued this strong warning for patients and their caregivers who may be considering such treatment:

    1) “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is concerned that the hope that patients have for cures not yet available may leave them vulnerable to unscrupulous providers of stem cell treatments that are illegal and potentially harmful. FDA cautions consumers to make sure that any stem cell treatment they are considering has been approved by the FDA or is being studied under a clinical investigation that has been submitted to and allowed to proceed by the FDA. Consumers need to be aware that at present—other than cord blood for certain specified indications—there are no approved stem cell products.

    2) If you are considering stem cell treatment in the U.S., ask your physician if the necessary FDA approval has been obtained or if you will be part of an FDA-regulated clinical study. This also applies if the stem cells are your own. Even if the cells are yours, there are safety risks, including risks introduced when the cells are manipulated after removal.

    3) There is a potential safety risk when you put cells in an area where they are not performing the same biological function as they were when in their original location in the body. Cells in a different environment may multiply, form TUMORS, or may leave the site you put them in and migrate somewhere else.

    4) If you are considering having stem cell treatment in another country, learn all you can about regulations covering the products in that country. Exercise caution before undergoing treatment with a stem cell-based product in a country that—unlike the U.S.—may not require clinical studies designed to demonstrate that the product is safe and effective. FDA does not regulate stem cell treatments used solely in countries other than the United States and typically has little information about foreign establishments or their stem cell products.”

    To read more:
    … and:

  2. Robin Birdfeather at 3:24 pm

    Dear Ed, You’ve given some generally good advice, along with the warning caveats. One thing that very few people, including doctors, realize or have been taught, is that a ‘warm-up’ before doing anything repetitive for long enough, is what muscles require - not a held lengthening of them as too many runners have learned the hard way.
    Basically a warm-up is not initially doing the activity you are about to engage in, say, more slowly than the speed you will do it at later. A warm-up is simply the rotation, etc. Range of Motion (ROM) that the involved muscles need to achieve their ease and readiness for the exercise or repetition to come. In other words, shortening to lengthening in the range that one can do them on that day. About 8 to 10 times will do it for most. This is best done to a musical beat that closely resembles the rate of your heart beat, and with regular in and out breathing. This involves learning a bit more about what those muscles are (you can learn their Latin names or not - but it is kind of fun to learn them), and where they are.
    Examples can be seen in the famous books written by Bonnie Prudden, easily available at used book stores and the online sources. The single best is the latest, “Myotherapy”. Particularly informative, besides the many many photos demonstrating proper warm-ups, is the chapter on ‘Sports in America'; with special attention to ‘Warm-ups…What Are They?’ on page 216. I strongly suggest that people get this state-of-the-art reference on the care and preventive movement therapies for your one and only body.

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