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The single jab that could banish back pain: Bone marrow injected into the spine could repair damage
Bone marrow is being increasingly used to heal tissueTreatment involves injecting it into lumbar discs – small cushions of tissue between the bones in the spine
07:53 GMT, 12 April 2013
09:57 GMT, 12 April 2013
Back pain could be cured by a single injection in the spine, new research suggests.
Pioneering research has found that injecting bone marrow – the flexible tissue found inside bones – into the spine can help repair the damage.
Some patients who had the treatment had their back pain cured, say the doctors at Columbia Interventional Pain Center in Missouri, who trialled it.
The treatment could offer hope to the 12 million Britons who suffer from back pain every day.
Injecting bone marrow – the flexible tissue found inside bones – into the spine can help ease back pain, new research has found
The condition affects 80 per cent of people at some point, and for many it becomes a long-term problem, costing the NHS 1.5billion a year.
The usual treatments are painkillers such as anti-inflammatories, steroid injections, physiotherapy and surgery, but many people are never completely free of pain.
It's now hoped that the bone marrow injections could become a viable alternative treatment.
Grafts using bone marrow are increasingly used by surgeons to repair damaged tissue and, with this in mind, the Missouri researchers investigated how effective it could be for back pain.
The procedure involved injecting a concentrated form of bone marrow liquid into lumbar discs.
These are small cushions of tissue between the bones in the spine that
work like shock absorbers. They are prone to wear and tear, and can slip
out of place, pressing on nerves.
Doctors trialled the therapy on 22 patients who had suffered back pain for an average four years. Their disc problems were confirmed with CT and MRI scans.
The results were mixed – some patients reported complete pain relief – on average, for four years – while others saw no improvement.
Promising: Bone marrow marrow is increasingly used by surgeons to repair damaged tissue
Another benefit was that no patient reported a worsening of pain, and no complications occurred. Patients also reported needing less medication.
Presenting his findings at the American Academy of Pain Medicine, lead researcher Dr Donald Meyer said: 'Our results are encouraging.
'Currently, when conservative treatment measures fail, therapeutic options are limited for individuals with back pain due to disc degeneration. Many resort to disc surgery or spinal fusion with mediocre results.
'Our goal is to help develop a safe, natural method to boost the body’s own capacity to heal disc pain.'
Arthritis Research UK said the study looked promising. 'Low back pain, associated with intervertebral disc degeneration, is a painful and debilitating disorder costing the UK economy over 12billion a year,' a spokeswoman said.
'Although many types of surgery are available for selected patients, current treatments for low back pain remain inadequate, with patients continuing to suffer pain and immobilisation.
'This study shows that this type of novel treatment using bone marrow grafts may be effective in certain patients.