What Are My Nonsurgical Regenerative Medicine Options for Spinal Stenosis?

If you’ve been told that spinal stenosis is the reason why you have back or neck pain, you may feel helpless. Sure, you can keep your body fit by exercising, lifting weights to strengthen bones and muscles, and eating foods that nourish your cells. But how are you supposed to improve the health of your spine?

Harvard-trained and triple board-certified physician, Brian Fuller, MD, is an expert at diagnosing and treating spinal stenosis. At Mountain Spine & Pain Physicians in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Fuller and his friendly staff offer effective, minimally invasive treatments for anyone who suffers from pain. 

The team is especially proud to offer nonsurgical regenerative medicine options such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy and stem cell treatments to treat the pain and dysfunction of spinal stenosis. Read on to find out more about the condition and how regenerative medicine can help.

Why your spinal canal narrows

You can develop spinal stenosis after a traumatic accident or can even be born with the condition, but most cases of spinal stenosis are due to age-related changes in your spinal column. The spinal column is composed of 34 vertebral bones, including 24 articulated vertebrae that allow your back to bend forward, backward, and side to side.

The articulated vertebrae are separated by spongy discs that act as shock absorbers. Each vertebra is hollow in the center, so when they’re stacked on top of one another, they create a kind of tunnel that houses and protects your spinal cord and the spinal nerves. This space is called the spinal canal.

Over time, though, the spongy vertebral discs dry out and compress, and other soft tissues that support your spine — such as ligaments, tendons, and muscles — also degrade. Without strong soft-tissue support, your vertebrae begin to shift and move in ways that cause the bones to grind together, causing osteoarthritis, or to irritate the supporting tissues. You then develop changes such as:

  • Inflammation
  • Bone spurs
  • Herniated or slipped discs
  • Thickened ligaments

All of these changes narrow the space in your spinal canal. When bone spurs (i.e., bony growths that develop due to arthritis) or inflamed tendons press on the nerves in the canal, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Numb or tingling arms or hands
  • Numb or tingling legs or feet
  • Weak leg or foot
  • Balance problems
  • Gait problems
  • Neck or back pain
  • Urinary urgency or incontinence
  • Bowel problems

Doctors treating spinal stenosis used to focus on reducing inflammation with corticosteroids or performing surgery to remove bone spurs or stabilize the spine. If you don’t respond to lifestyle changes and physical therapy to strengthen your supporting spinal tissues, however, Dr. Fuller may first recommend regenerative medicine as an alternative to long-term steroids or surgery.

How regenerative medicine helps spinal stenosis

Regenerative medicine helps reduce age-related changes and inflammation in the tissues in and around the spinal canal. By healing weakened tendons and ligaments, therapies such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell treatments help to reverse the changes in your spinal canal, better support your vertebrae, and take the pressure off your spinal nerves. 

During PRP treatment, Dr. Fuller creates a PRP serum by withdrawing a few tablespoons of blood from your arm and then spinning the blood in a centrifuge. The centrifuge separates the healing cell fragments called platelets from the liquid (i.e., plasma) part of your blood and from other solids, such as blood cells. He then mixes the concentrated platelets into a small amount of plasma and injects the serum directly into the areas of your spine that need healing.

For stem cell therapy, Dr. Fuller removes stem cells from the bone marrow in the back of your hip in a simple, in-office procedure done under local anesthesia. He then uses a centrifuge to separate out mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which have the ability to become other kinds of cells — including tendon, ligament, and bone cells. He injects the bone-marrow aspirate directly into your injured areas to promote healing and regrowth.

Your body uses regenerative medicine to heal itself

Both PRP and stem-cell therapies accelerate your body’s healing processes. When your tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues receive the growth factors, proteins, and other healing substances in PRP and stem-cell therapy, they can rebuild themselves to be stronger and more flexible. Regenerative medicine literally turns back the clock on your spinal canal, as the tissues that surround your spine remodel themselves and start to function as if they were years younger.

While you may notice an improvement in pain or other symptoms shortly after your PRP or stem-cell treatment, most of the changes occur over the next weeks to months as your body rebuilds tissues. Regenerative medicine actually heals the underlying causes of your pain, rather than simply masking symptoms as drugs and other therapies do.

To find out if you can heal your spinal stenosis with regenerative medicine options such as PRP or stem-cell therapy, contact our office today.

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