Ending A Lifetime of Pain In Less Than One Year
For nearly 40 years, Eric Sandberg has managed chronic, often debilitating back pain on a daily basis. The St. Helena native began to experience back troubles as a tennis-playing teenager during the 1970s. With only rest, ice, and aspirin to address the painful symptoms, he often experienced days that would render him relatively immobile. When the pain was at its height, Eric could be found in his room flat on his back. Thankfully, that was then.
“Today, generally speaking,” Eric says, “I wake up without back pain. It’s not exactly 100% perfect all of the time, but it’s a remarkable difference given what I have experienced every other day of my life until now.”
After years of managing the pain with quantities of ibuprofen, seeking adjustment from chiropractors, and staunchly avoiding the recommended spinal fusion offered as the best possible course of action by multiple doctors, Eric met with Marko Bodor, MD. After a thorough review Dr. Bodor suggested a biologic regenerative treatment, specifically injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) into several of his discs. Although most patients have had good to excellent improvement, there was no guarantee of success. With every patient there is always the possibility that the pain is may be coming from a source other than the discs, or that it simply may not work. Dr. Bodor was clear that Eric would not experience noticeable improvement for at least 2 months and that improvement would continue for up to a year.
“I didn’t know quite what to expect,” Eric comments, “but I find I have a functioning back unlike what I have known before. This was definitely not a quick fix, but is has been the most impressive treatment I have experienced.
Drawn from a person’s own blood and processed via several centrifugation cycles, concentrated platelets in PRP function as nanorobots to pull together torn collagen and create a sticky fibrin matrix. The platelets then secrete growth factors to promote healing and repair of tears within the disc that have failed to repair themselves naturally. In an ongoing study at the Napa Medical Research Foundation, 278 patients who have received a single PRP injection into one or more cervical, thoracic, and lumbar discs are being tracked at regular intervals up to and beyond one year. The outcomes have been impressive, with 60-70% of patients experiencing good to excellent outcomes and returning to activities that had not been possible for years.
Time appears to be the critical element in terms of assessing results. Had Eric expected to be pain-free after a few weeks, he may have initially considered the PRP a failure. Dr. Bodor says that, “While we have found PRP to be very effective for disc-mediated pain, a problem which in the past required fusion surgery, it is less effective for facet pain and spinal stenosis, except for chronic facet pain that might have been caused by acute trauma.” For problems with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spaces through which the nerves run, the NMRF is looking into the possibility that a combination of a spinal brace and PRP could potentially reverse some of the thickening of the ligaments that occurs as a result of instability and contributes to narrowing of the spaces around the nerves. For non-traumatic facet pain caused by aging and osteoarthritis, the NMRF is studying the use of bone marrow aspirate concentrate injections, which have been found to be effective for knee osteoarthritis.
Sandberg also emphasized the importance of physical therapy after the procedure. Attending regular sessions with a regenerative physical therapy specialist, Eric feels he was able to augment the healing process by strengthening key muscles and promoting increased mobility throughout the spine. Eric plans to continue his therapeutic exercise program in the years ahead.
The NMRF continues to work towards improved delivery and effectiveness of this promising regenerative treatment, both in the clinic and in the lab. We are fortunate to be able to share Mr. Sandberg’s journey to a place of increased mobility and improved quality of life, and invite you to read more of Our Stories on our website, www.NapaMedicalResearch.org.
Reduce Pain. Increase Mobility + Function. Improve Quality of Life.
All the research conducted through the Napa Medical Research Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is fully funded through generous donations received from individuals and family foundations.