Posts Tagged ‘spine’

Can an MRI Reveal the Cause of Your Back Pain?

Can an MRI Reveal the Cause of Your Back Pain?

Lower back pain can have many different causes, from a muscle or ligament strain, arthritis, or osteoporosis, to more drastic causes like a tumor impinging on a nerve or a ruptured or herniated disc

When most people experience lower back pain, they usually do not consult a doctor right away. This sometimes makes sense, as everyone can experience minor back pain from time to time as a result of some physical activity, such as playing a strenuous game of tennis or picking weeds for an entire morning. For these routine ailments, sufficient rest and over-the-counter pain relievers are often enough to resolve a lower back pain problem in a few days.

However, there are times when back pain does not go away when the pain comes on suddenly as a result of an injury, or the pain is so severe that you know something more serious is at play. In these circumstances, you will want to see a doctor right away. However, a doctor cannot recommend an effective treatment plan unless and until the doctor knows what is causing your back pain. Consequently, in addition to asking you questions and performing an exam, your doctor is likely to order some diagnostic imaging tests. One type of imaging test is called an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test. An MRI can generate a detailed, high-quality image that can help a specialist correctly diagnose the cause of your pain.

What Is a Wide-Bore MRI?

An MRI is a diagnostic device that uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create an image of your internal tissues. MRIs are used for a wide number of medical complaints, and they are very helpful for diagnosing certain types of health issues in the lower back. The MRI produces internal images that can reveal spinal abnormalities, including degenerated discs, sciatica, and cancerous growths.

Many patients who have undergone an MRI experience physical discomfort and a feeling of claustrophobia as the machine moves them through the narrow “tunnel”. However, the latest MRI technology, called a wide-bore MRI, combines superior diagnostics with a higher level of patient comfort. The moving platform is more restful for the patient to lie on, and the “wide bore” is more open. At the St. Charles Spine Institute, we use the Optima MR450w system from GE Healthcare, an advanced MRI which features a wide bore. 

What Happens During an MRI?

A complete MRI scan usually takes about 30 minutes to complete, performed in short sequences of two to six minutes each. You prepare beforehand by wearing comfortable clothing, free of any metal parts like zippers, snaps, hooks, or buttons. Before being placed on the MRI platform, you will also have to be screened for any metal in your body, including any prosthetic joints, pacemakers or cardiac stents.  It is important to determine if these implants are MRI conditional (or compatible). In some cases, an intravenous contrast material called gadolinium will be given intravenously prior to the test. This substance enables the machine to produce clearer images.

During the test itself, you will lie on the platform. You will have to be very still as the machine moves you through the bore. Several series of images will be taken, and you will hear clicking noises during this process. Although the technologist is not in the same room as you, you and the technologist are able to communicate through an intercom.

What Happens After the MRI?

After your MRI, you will meet with your doctor. Depending on what the MRI has revealed about the cause of your back pain, any number of different therapies may be recommended to address your particular problem. 

Thankfully, today, there is a wide range of therapies available for addressing lower back problems that were not available even a decade ago. Lumbar arthroplasty (artificial disc replacement in the lower back), steroid injections, stem-cell therapy, kyphoplasty, and sacroiliac fusion are some of the procedures that may be recommended to address your problem. The right procedure can often restore range of motion to patients with serious back problems, and enable you to obtain effective and long-term pain relief. 

Lower back pain is one of the most common causes that people cite for limiting their activities, especially as they age. Sometimes, lower back pain can become chronic, bothering people when they get out of bed or stand up, or after sitting for a while. If you have lower back pain, don’t assume that you simply have to live with it. With today’s diagnostic tools like wide-bore MRI and the ability of spine doctors to resolve serious back problems through the right therapy, you owe it to yourself to see a spinal specialist for a consultation. Schedule an appointment with the St. Charles Spine Institute today.

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How Effective Is Regenerative Medicine?

How Effective Is Regenerative Medicine?

How Effective Is Regenerative Medicine?

The human body has a remarkable capacity to heal itself over time: cuts and scrapes scab over and new skin grows, and broken bones will knit themselves back together with the support of a cast. Our immune systems fight off illnesses and allergens, always working to preserve and restore our health. Because we experience this ability so frequently, it is easy to take this remarkable phenomenon for granted. But medical professionals, who have more reason than anyone else to pay close attention to our bodies’ self-healing powers, are now finding ways to use this unique trait in new ways.

The name for this area of medical research is called regenerative medicine. Although doctors have always relied on the natural healing abilities of the body in providing care for their patients, they are now looking at regenerative medicine as a way to heal specific damaged tissues. Using the regenerative abilities found in a person’s own stem cells, regenerative therapy can be used to repair parts of the body that will not, on their own, repair themselves. Regenerative medicine is now one of the most cutting-edge therapies that has the potential to revolutionize treatments for many health problems.

Who Is a Good Candidate for This Therapy?

Regenerative therapy is based on using a person’s own stem cells, found in bone marrow, and injecting those cells to the specific site where tissue is damaged. Unlike other cells in the body, stem cells have the unique ability to become other types of cells. That is, skin cells can only reproduce skin cells, and they will reproduce to grow skin where there was once a cut. However, a stem cell, when injected into the site for a damaged muscle, can produce muscle cells and thus rebuild the muscle that is damaged.

The process of using your own stem cells to promote healing in your body is effective for a variety of conditions. At the St. Charles Spine Institute, we have used stem cell therapy to treat injured tissues and joints with considerable success. Whether the damage was caused by daily stress on the body over time, by arthritis, or by a traumatic injury, stem cells have been effective in generating new, undamaged tissue to relieve pain and restore function.

Tissues like cartilage, joints, ligaments, and muscles have all responded favorably to stem cell therapy. Doctors have used this therapy to treat every major joint in the body, as well as smaller ones, such as knuckles in the hand. In addition, this revolutionary therapy is also being employed to promote healing in individuals with back problems such as lumbar disc trauma, damaged facet joints, and torn muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Nearly anyone can be a good candidate for this treatment since it is low-risk, minimally invasive, and uses agents from the patient’s body. Using the patient’s cells means there is no risk of the patient’s body rejecting the treatment or experiencing an allergic response. This treatment is safe for patients whose fragile condition prevents them from undergoing surgery and does not require the use of general anesthesia.

One of the most exciting things about the field of regenerative therapy is the wide range of ways it may be utilized. Elderly individuals can experience relief from the pain associated with arthritis and aging without having to undergo risky and traumatizing surgeries. Athletes can heal faster from ligament and tendon tears. Stem cell therapy promises to provide doctors with an effective, non-invasive way to treat new injuries and long-term problems.

What to Expect in Stem Cell Treatment

Stem cell therapy is completed in an outpatient setting and typically takes less than 45-minutes. First, bone marrow is removed from the iliac crest of the patient’s hip and then aspirated. From there, the marrow is concentrated until only stem cells remain. The stem cells are then injected into the area being treated.

Once the stem cells have been injected into the damaged area, they will begin to multiply. Patients usually start to sense a change in the treated area about a week after the procedure and will experience the maximum benefits around weeks six and seven. As their body is healing, they may feel slight discomfort in the treatment area; this is normal and part of the healing process.

Most patients can return to their usual activities with some limitations shortly after treatment. Individuals who receive disc injections will be instructed to limit their movement for several days, and strenuous exercise and load-bearing activities should be avoided for at least two weeks.

Stem cell therapy has the potential to expedite healing and minimize pain in patients with no side effects and minimal downtime. If you are experiencing back problems, and are interested in finding out whether regenerative therapy may provide an answer for you, contact the St. Charles Spine Institute today to set up an appointment. We look forward to seeing you!

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