Pain Relieving Shots of Bone Marrow

Lower back pain patients injected with their own bone marrow for pain relief

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Doctors can harvest all sorts of things from a person’s own body to reuse in another area. Deep within people's bones, there is a substance that may help manage back pain.

In a recent experiment, a team of doctors treated a small group of long-term back pain patients with local injections of their own hipbone marrow.

Several patients reported pain relief lasting as long as two years. These researchers said further studies on this technique are warranted.

"Ongoing back pain? Call a specialist."

Donald J. Meyer Jr., MD, PhD, from the Columbia Interventional Pain Center in Columbia, MO, led an experiment to treat lower back pain at the Crane Clinic in St. Louis, MO.

For this small, experimental study, 24 male and female patients, between 28 and 64 years of age, with severe, long-term back pain from damaged lumbar discs were given self-harvested bone marrow injections.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans were used to confirm disc degeneration or deterioration in each patient.

The doctors harvested bone marrow from each patient’s hipbone. The bone marrow was put in a centrifuge, a piece of lab equipment that spins test tubes to separate and concentrate the bone marrow cells.

The concentrated bone marrow from each patient was then injected back into his or her own lower back disc(s). A maximum of two discs were treated.

A second injection of triamcinolone, a corticosteroid, was used to reduce irritation and inflammation.

"We came up with the idea to use bone marrow concentrate based on early studies in other fields demonstrating improved healing of injured tissues when exposed to injections of cell-based solutions," Dr. Meyer said in a dailyRx interview.

"Bone marrow was chosen because it contains special cells which have the ability to transform themselves into other cell types. These special cells are called mesenchymal cells, and are often referred to as "adult stem cells."

"Injured or degenerated discs of the spine heal very slowly and we thought that injecting concentrated marrow cells would speed up the healing process," continued Dr. Meyer.

Patients were followed for 30 to 36 months after the injections.

“None of the 24 patients reported worsening low back pain at 2-24 month follow-up,” said the study authors.

And no injection complications were reported.

Half of the group did not receive further injections or surgical treatments, while the other half did.

In the group that did not receive further treatment, 10 patients reported pain relief two to four months after the initial injection.

In the same group, eight out of 11 patients still reported pain relief five to 12 months after the initial injection. And 13 to 24 months after the initial injection, five out of eight patients continued to report pain relief while three reported no relief.

The authors were not able to draw statistical conclusions based on the small numbers in this experimental study. The authors recommended further studies investigate the use of self-harvested bone marrow injections for lower back pain.

This study abstract was presented at the American Academy of Pain Medicine 29th Annual Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, April 11-14, 2013. These study results have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 8, 2013
Last Updated:
January 29, 2014