While facet joints may be the lesser known of the joints in the human body, they are critical to mobility, health and physical comfort. The facet joints rest between the spine’s individual vertebrae, and every movement involving twisting, bending or flexing of the spine requires the flexing of these joints. Facet joints are almost constantly moving as the body goes from one movement to another, which places them at high risk for severe wear and bone spur development over the years. This wear can lead to the development of osteoarthritis, reduced mobility and increased back pain. This pain can be relatively minor or can become debilitating.
The complex and delicate nature of the spine once meant that there was no available cure for problems in the facet joints. Temporary solutions such as chiropractic treatments, cortisone shots and medications could alleviate the pain and stiffness for a time, but did nothing to actually address the cause of pain. The most serious cases required surgical interventions such as bone fusion. These techniques, however, were very difficult to perform and could even worsen the condition. Advancements in the fields of science and regenerative medicine, however, have introduced new options for nonsurgical treatment of facet joint arthritis. The Institute of Regenerative and Molecular Orthopaedics has played a large role in the development stem cell treatments, which can not only ease the pain in worn facet joints but also work to regenerate the damage.
These treatments involve separating stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow and then injecting the cells into the damaged tissue. Stem cells help to repair the damaged structure by both healing the damage and spurring self-healing. The stem cell injections are followed by injections of platelet rich plasma, which direct the cells to the appropriate location and help them in their repair processes. This is critical to the support of the stem cells. The procedure involves very little discomfort and is generally performed with only local anesthetic. It represents far less danger than invasive spinal surgery and provides noticeable results within only a few weeks. Actual repair of the tissue is completed within two or three months of the initial stem cell and platelet rich plasma injections.
Patients need not suffer from the pain and limited mobility of damaged facet joints. Stem cell and regenerative medicine can offer tremendous benefits and should be considered before more dangerous, invasive measures.