Historically, spinal cord injury treatment is amongst the most complex and challenging that most medical professionals ever encounter. In most cases, there is little that can be done to reverse damage resulting from injuries to the spine and lifelong loss of sensation or permanent disability follow. Standard treatment involves the use of surgery if applicable, medications where appropriate, immobilization, aid devices, spinal cord injury rehabilitation including physical therapy and various types of support including vocational, emotional and transitional methods. However, modern science is trying to change the way in which spinal cord injury treatment is managed, with breakthrough technologies useful in both the physical element of the injury as well as innovative and beneficial natural pain relief methods. When combined with rehabilitation therapy, these new treatment options can help improve quality of life and even improve sensation and mobility in some individuals.
Controversial and still in its infancy, one type of potentially new spinal cord injury treatment is the use of stem cells. Though still in preliminary phases and fairly limited in terms of trials and participants, there are some major breakthroughs that are ready to burst through with regards the use of stem cells to treat injuries to the spine. It’s thought that embryonic stems cells that are transplanted maybe able to fuse with the nervous system that is already existing and that this connection can provide new routes for nerve signals to take and therefore allow for nerve signals to make their way to the muscles.
Roadblocks have made progress on this potentially new type of spinal cord injury treatment slow, however. Site scar tissue can make new cell growth challenging or impossible, and researchers are looking to overcome this hurdle with the use of synthetic biologic scaffolding, so to speak. These help form a clear pathway for signals to be sent, and the tools have shown success in animal studies.
5 Facts About Stem Cell Spinal Cord Injury Treatment
- Stem cells have the potential to regenerate damaged cells in the spinal cord, promoting recovery.
- Stem cells can be derived from a patient’s own body, reducing the risk of rejection and complications.
- Studies have shown that stem cell therapy can improve sensory and motor function in patients with spinal cord injuries.
- There are different types of stem cells used for spinal cord injury treatment, including mesenchymal stem cells and neural stem cells.
- Stem cell therapy is still considered experimental and is not widely available, but ongoing research is promising.
Cryotherapy as a Complimentary Spinal Cord Injury Treatment
A form of complimentary spinal cord injury treatment that is currently in use and has shown in some studies to be effective at reducing symptoms associated with injury to the spine is a cryotherapy cold sauna. These devices, which look like something directly out of a science fiction movie, are large chambers that can enclose the entire body (except the head, in most cases). They’re capsules of sorts that allow for the even external distribution of supercooled liquid nitrogen that is emitted in gas form for a period of only a couple of minutes.
This process prompts numerous changes within the body. Initially, the super cold air sends the body into flight or fight mode, releasing powerful healing chemicals that promote feelings of energy and well being. As the treatment progresses, the body is thought to start it’s immune processes in response which may contribute to repair of damaged tissues. Lastly, the chilled air serves as a whole body ice pack to help reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Athletes have been long time fans of the cryosauna, finding that it’s more comfortable and takes less time yet provides better results for speeding post performance recovery than traditional ice packs. Tony Robbins discusses in a recent podcast his regular use of the devices to reduce inflammation.
Yet, the use that may be most responsible for the surge in popularity of the procedure may be for lower and upper back pain relief. It may be the inflammation reducing abilities of the cold therapy responsible for it’s positive effects on upper and chronic lower back pain that make it a potentially effective treatment, and there is medical evidence that supports these claims and may explain why the therapy is being considered for spinal cord injury treatment in some individuals
Two conditions in particular that relate to the spine have yielded positive results when cold therapy to the whole body was used. One of these is spinal overload syndrome and the other is ankylosing spondylitis where spinal mobility is impacted. In both cases cold therapy was combined with kinesitherapy for treatment and in both cases, the addition of whole body cold therapy yielded better results than simply kinesitherapy on its own.
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There appear to be major changes on the horizon with regards spinal cord injury treatment. Although we may still be years away from the use of these technologies to treat and manage the symptoms of injury to the spinal cord, early studies have provided us with a glimmer of hope that perhaps one day, a spinal injury will not doom patients to a lifetime of disability and discomfort.
Mansoori, K., Hosseini, S. M., Nikkhah, M., Mardani, M., & Mohammadi, A. (2021). Stem Cell-Based Therapies for Spinal Cord Injury: A Review Article. World Neurosurgery, 148, e444-e455.