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Spinal Injections for Back Pain

29 August 2013  |  Admin

Spinal injections for back pain
Written By, On August 29, 2013
How a jab of gel could be the surgery-free solution to your bad back

Clinical trials likely to start in three years

Excruciating: Eighty per cent of Britons suffer with back pain at some point in their lives

An injection that could ease the misery of back pain for millions has been the holy grail for medicine over the last 40 years, but to date all attempts have failed. Another such treatment has been invented by British scientists hoping to succeed where others have failed. The latest treatment uses and injection of gel that contains thousands of microscopic sponge-like particles that inflate and gel together inside the body, attempting to repair damaged and worn-away spinal discs.

Almost everyone over the age of 50 has degeneration of the intervertebral discs, which cushion the vertebrae that make up the various sections of the spine. Eighty per cent of Britons suffer back pain at some point in their lives. The most badly damaged discs are treated through surgery in a major operation in which vertebrae are fused together, and patients can take months to recover.

In contrast, it is hoped that patients would be back to normal only days or weeks after treatment with the gel. The injection, which is the result of 25 years of work at Manchester University, contains billions of tiny particles which form a liquid in the syringe. Once inside the body, they turn into a gel. Lead researcher Dr Brian Saunders, of the university’s School of Materials, said: ‘It is made up of lots of really, really small microgel particles, sponge-like particles, each about one-thousandth the width of a human hair, floating around in water. ‘When we inject them, they expand and push against each other like a boxful of balloons blowing up and pushing against each other. ’As a result, they lock together, creating a strong, load-bearing material, the journal Soft Matter reports. Dr Saunders said: ‘By the time we get to 50 years old, 97 per cent of us have degeneration in some of our intervertebral discs and it gets progressively worse. It causes a lot of time off work and is a major issue because as a society we are all getting older and heavier.

‘Treatments go from simple ones like physiotherapy to very severe ones like spinal fusion. ‘That’s a major operation which involves lots of time in hospital and lots of time recovering and there’s not really that much in between, so for years we’ve been working on an injectable approach that doesn’t involve surgery. ‘We hope it could be done in the outpatients part of a hospital, rather than going into a surgical theatre and you’d be in and out, rather than spending days in hospital.’

The gel is likely to be injected into people for the first time in around five years. If all goes well, it could be widely used to ease back pain three years after that. Professor Tony Freemont, a co-author of the paper, said: ‘Degeneration of intervertebral discs results in chronic back pain which costs the country billions of pounds per annum and causes untold misery for sufferers and their families.’ Back ache is one of the biggest causes of absenteeism, accounting for nearly five million lost working days a year.

All attempts in the past for quick fix pain relief have failed again and again unfortunately spinal dysfunction is complicated and we need to preserve our spines and regular chiropractic treatment can help keep our spines flexible over the years.

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