Spinal Stem Cell Treatment: What it is, why I did it, and why it doesn’t hurt as much as you think

Spinal Stem Cell Treatment: What it is, why I did it, and why it doesn't hurt as much as you think.

The Backstory (Pun Intended)

About nine years ago, my two-year old daughter was frolicking in a ball when I needed to extract her at the end of a class. I walked over to the ball pit, stood on the squishy blue crashmat, and reached over the waist-high barrier to pick her up. When I had her at shoulder height, she went limp in my hands. The sudden drop in her weight was too much for my postpartum back (I had just had her sister two months prior) and — boom — I bulged a disc and dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes. 

Over the course of the next seven years, my back would act up but would be quickly fixed by a skilled osteopath. Then I hit my 40s and with one over-enthusiastic goblet squat I found myself on the floor again in agony.

It was not quickly fixed this time: I ended up in a spinal surgeon’s office with an MRI that showed my herniated L4/L5 disc significantly protruding into the spinal cord, but thankfully not compressing the sciatic nerve.

"My chronic back pain persisted until I decided to take a chance with stem cell treatments from Bangkok-based StemCells21 at Thanyapura Phuket."

At this point I knew very little about stem cells and here’s what I’ve read:

  • I was going to have injections and infusions of 70 million Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) that would be taken from donated umbilical cord. This meant there were no moral issues around embryonic stem cells. (Yay!)
  • These would be “first pass” stem cells, meaning they are cultured to yield more cells with higher viability, “higher expression of mitosis and cell cycle-related genes and a unique secretion profile of growth factors and cytokines”. (It sounded like I was getting the good stuff)
  • These cells are immune-privileged, meaning there’s less chance of rejection or complications. (Also, yay!)
  • In addition to helping regenerate my disc by signaling damned tissues and cells to self-repair, they would also help produce new cells and tissues. (Sounds good, right?)
  • The cells can also enhance immune system function, reduce inflammation, and improve other fundamental anti-aging factors, all while improving the body’s ability to continue to produce its own new regenerative cells, creating a positive feedback loop. (Cue the ‘Circle of Life’ music)

BUT HOW DOES THIS MAGIC HAPPEN?

I now understood all the benefits of what these stem cells could do, but I was still not entirely sure how it all happened until I got on the phone with stem cell specialists, Dr. Htut and Dr. Joyce for a consultation. They were extremely kind, very thorough, and I trusted them immediately. They walked me through the entire procedure, answered all my questions and put me at ease.

"Dr. Htut also explained, in layman’s terms for my benefit, how the process would work. “The stem cells are attracted to inflammation in the damaged area, so they migrate to the injury site almost like a magnet would. They then become whatever is needed for repair: tissue, bone, fluid etc.”

Treatment Duration: 3 Days

My treatment was scheduled to take place over three days. Day 1 involved preparing my body to create an environment the stem cells could thrive in. I had a physiotherapy session, an IV session, and a miRNA shot in the rear to provide core building blocks for the damaged tissues to repair.

I had my IV therapy in a lovely room looking over a stunning national park. I was given intravenous curcumin (yes, the active ingredient in turmeric), for its host of benefits including its anti-inflammatory properties.

IV laser therapy was also administered, which the team used to create a more favourable microenvironment in the blood and to stimulate local tissue activity. The team’s head nurse, Khun Sah, was amazing and the insertion of the IVs were flawless.  

Day 2 was the day I would have the actual injections in my back. The treatment started with physiotherapy again before I went down to the procedure room. I received an IV of Resveratrol (yes, the good stuff in red wine) for its anti-inflammatory properties.

"Once settled, the team walked me through the biological profile of my stem cells to confirm how viable they were and that they were free of disease."

It was then time for the actual stem cells, which were delivered first by IV (20 million cells) and then by local injection for the remaining 50 million cells. For good measure, I also had another miRNA shot in the posterior. How much did it hurt? The injections were not a walk in the park, but they were far less painful than I had imagined. This treatment was rounded out by paraspinal lasers and a spin in a whole body laser bed.

Day 3: On Sunday morning, I came back for my last IV, an amino-acid called “Kidmin” that Dr. Joyce explained “feeds” the stem cells. At the same time, they checked my back and did some external laser work on it. This day was also wrapped up with a spin in the laser bed and another miRNA shot.

R&R

All of this happened a month ago. I’m now back to my daily activities and I have to say — with complete amazement — that I’m pain-free. Let me repeat that: pain-free.

The ever-present pain in my back is gone. Completely. That’s a win in my books.

As for how this will progress in terms of regeneration (slowly) and to what extent it will repair my injury (unknown), I will simply have to wait, continue my physio, and follow the doctor’s orders about easing back into exercise.

"I am also cautiously optimistic that good things are happening back there."

Click here to read more about stem cell treatment packages available at Thanyapura Phuket with StemCells21.

This article is written by Samantha Gayfer.

Edited by Ashlyne Nair