Ask Drs. Clary and Stulc: Do You Offer PRP Spine Treatments?

PRP spine treatments expand options to relieve back pain.

PRP spine treatments

Regenerative medicine, which includes platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, offers new exciting options for pain treatment. PRP injections are successfully used to treat a variety of painful joint conditions. But does the promise of pain relief through regenerative medicine extend to patients with back pain? Pain medicine specialists Dr. Andrew Clary and Dr. Steven Stulc discuss how regenerative medicine works and explains how Summit is using PRP spine treatments as a valuable therapeutic option to treat back pain.

What are PRP treatments?

“Platelet-rich plasma treatments, commonly known as PRP, are attractive because the patient’s own platelets are the treatment,” says Dr. Stulc. “This is an exciting area of medicine in part because research is promising, and because the philosophy underlying regenerative medicine is so appealing. You use the patient’s own platelets or bone marrow to release enzymes that cause healing. The studies supporting regenerative medicine treatments like PRP are relatively new. However, there are well-designed PRP studies indicating that 50 percent of people get better with these therapies. Even more significantly, these are often people who have tried every other medical option. With regenerative medicine options, we can offer these patients hope.”

When are PRP spine treatments considered?

PRP injections offer hope to patients for whom nothing else has worked. “Many patients experience back pain, but prefer not to consider surgical treatment,” explains Dr. Clary. “So, we try conservative treatments instead. These include physical therapy, steroid injections, and supplementation. What do you do if these treatments aren’t effective? The next step is surgery, but that is a step that some of my patients prefer not to take. In that situation, I can talk about PRP spine treatments or prolotherapy. Prolotherapy is another regenerative treatment using dextrose, lidocaine, and sterile water. Both PRP and prolotherapy injections work by stimulating inflammation to trigger healing.”

“We still don’t know exactly why these PRP spine treatments work, but they deliver relief to many patients,” notes Dr. Stulc. “This relief doesn’t last forever, but it can provide months or years of comfort. By comparison, a surgical approach may last for only 10 years—after which the surgery must be repeated. It’s easy to understand why patients are willing to try PRP spine treatment. It’s a conservative nonsurgical option that may provide relief and postpone the need for surgery.”

How PRP spine treatments work

“To treat spinal pain, we typically inject the damaged spinal disc with PRP,” says Dr. Clary. “Our objective is to place regenerative cells inside a disc to try to heal or regrow tissue. The injection addresses pain with a different approach compared to other treatments. Also, because disc-related pain issues are traditionally very hard to treat, regenerative therapies are one of our only options to manage this type of pain.”

Studies comparing steroid and regenerative treatments

Steroids are the traditional injection treatment for patients with sacroiliac joint pain. “Sacroiliac joint pain is back pain caused by a joint supporting the pelvis and spine,” explains Dr. Clary. “A steroid injection provides a few months of relief. It is a limited option, because there are risks attached to using steroids over a long period of time. By comparison, in a head-to-head study between steroid therapy and prolotherapy, the patients treated with prolotherapy had less pain and more function one year after treatment. Yet, insurance covers steroid and doesn’t cover prolotherapy.”

Insurance coverage of PRP spine treatments

“PRP is still considered too new to be covered by insurance,” states Dr. Clary. “But given the promising research that has been done, it’s important for patients to have access to this treatment if they want it. When you are in pain, the hope of relief matters. Our job is to frankly explain all of the options and help patients make the decision that is best for them.”

PRP spine treatments available at Summit’s comprehensive spine center

“We have a depth of expertise in both surgery and pain treatment,” says Dr. Stulc. “Making PRP spine treatments available to our patients is one more example of Summit’s commitment to comprehensive care.”

“We evaluate the data and follow the papers to understand who benefits most from these therapies,” points out Dr. Clary. “It is still difficult to predict precisely which patients will benefit. But these therapies give us one more treatment option to offer to patients who’ve been suffering for a long time.”

Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise

Summit’s spine care team is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for the comprehensive expertise of our patient-centered care. Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.

Start your journey to a healthy spine. Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 538-6909 to schedule a spine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNVadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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