It is rare that an injury, disc herniation or other condition affects the spine leads to permanent sciatic nerve damage, but for those who find themselves the anomalies, the effects are devastating. A damaged sciatic nerve can cause an array of chronic symptoms including muscle weakness, severe pain, loss of sensation, susceptibility to walk and loss of bladder and bowel control. Quality of life is affected by both extreme limits on activity and constant, unsuccessful physical stimuli.
It is important to seek treatment for sciatica, or impingement of the sciatic nerve, early on to prevent nerve damage. Injured sciatic nerves are treated in a variety of ways and usually heal within a year or two. However, in rare cases of severe injury or prolonged impingement, the nerve can become permanently damaged.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cells are the blank slates of cells: They can become other cells in the body. The cells used to treat back pain and other chronic pain conditions are called mesenchymal; they can become bone, cartilage, neuron or fat cells depending on the environment they are put in. Adult cells are used, which differs from embryonic cells that can become any other type of cell. Taking the cells from an adult eliminates the controversial surrounding embryonic stem cell research.
Mesenchymal cells can be derived from the patient's bone marrow, usually taken from the hip, or from the patient's adipose (fat) at the abdomen. The cells are injected into the injured site and, ideally, grow into the cell that area needs for rejuvenation. Studies are limited to animal trials at the time, but these show great promise for the ability of stem cell therapy to regenerate nerve cells. One such study can be viewed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21327572 .
Stem cell therapy is a last line of defense against permanent nerve damage and the disability and chronic pain that result from it. This modern treatment provides hope to those who have undergone conservative treatments like spinal decompression and physical therapy as well as surgical treatments to no avail.
Accessing stem cell therapy is currently difficult. Many who seek the treatment travel out of the US to locations that provide it. There are a few places in the US that offer stem cell treatment, such as ASCI in Arizona, which website can be found at http://www.stem-cell-center.com/ . Insurance does not cover the therapy as it is not FDA approved or accepted as a proven form of treatment. US clinics estimate the cost of treatment to range from $ 7,000- $ 10,000 – a substantial fee to pay out-of-pocket, but probably worth it to those facing lifelong nerve damage.
Another way to obtain stem cell therapy – without the cost – is to enter a clinical trial. Look for upcoming clinical trials frequently to stay up-to-date on what is available.
If you have suffered sciatic nerve damage, stem cell therapy may be the last hope you've been waiting for. Helping your body use its ability to regenerate itself may be the key to increasing a number of chronic conditions.