Stem Cell Therapy: When A Hike Is More than A Walk In the Park

Even the hot July sun over southern Utah couldn’t spoil a hike for Gregg Fiehler. The joy of walking has a new meaning for Fiehler. He hiked 7 miles in Zion National Park during a particularly hot and humid week this summer. The miles amounted to more than a long trek. They represented a breakthrough. Fiehler hadn’t walked half that distance in 5-6 years. Prior too recently, just a couple of miles would have created problems.

“If I got over 2 miles,” Fiehler says, “I’d pay for it that night.”

A software architect from Phoenix, Fiehler, 50, had been dealing with chronic low back pain for approximately 15 years. A variety of treatments and therapies offered only modest relief, but nothing lasted.

“I suffered the original injury 15 years ago, moving furniture,” Fiehler says. “I knew I tore something.”

zion-parkThe furniture move was a solo effort and Fiehler wound up on the floor, unable to move. With no one nearby to hear him, he had to pull the phone off the table by its chord to call an ambulance. Over the course of the next 15 years, Fiehler learned a lot about the nature of pain.

Fiehler underwent extensive treatment and therapies including: Physical therapy, epidural injections, medication management all of which only offered moderate, short term relief.
Most of Fiehler’s pain from the disc injury was nerve related pain, he says. He endured a lot of physical therapy, but that doesn’t help nerve pain. “It made me stronger,” Fiehler says. “It kept me from injuring myself.” But the amount of pain never subsided, the number of painkillers and anti-inflammatories never decreased.

After a few epidural injections gave no relief, hope had just about vanished.  “I had three,” Fiehler says. “One helped a tiny bit. One was neutral. One made me worse.”

Then, Fiehler made a visit to Southwest Spine & Sports last November.  A thorough history and physical exam lead to the diagnosis of a disc tear as the possible cause of Fiehler’s chronic low back pain. He eventually underwent an injection using his own stem cells injected into the disc and it made a big difference.

Biologic therapy, autologous stem cells in Fiehler’s case offered him an opportunity to return to the active lifestyle he enjoyed before the ill-fated furniture move. “I used to run, play basketball, hike, and things like that” he says.

Stem cell therapy brings rapid relief, though full recovery is not exactly immediate. Fiehler improved to about 50% of normal use four months after the procedure. Best of all, though, Fiehler notes that 5-6 months after the first treatment, he hasn’t had any nerve pain, just muscle pain as he tries to rebuild muscles he couldn’t use because the nerve pain was strong.

“I used to wake up in the middle of the night,” Fiehler recalls. “I couldn’t sleep because the pain was so bad. Now, working with Dr. Wolff, I’ve been able to return to a muscle-strengthening program.” His work creating new software requires him to sit for long stretches. That, too, was impossible with the high level of pain he suffered. “I’ve been working 16-hour days on deadline lately,” Fiehler says. “That wasn’t possible before. Now, the muscles need work, but my back is much better.”

What is stem cell therapy?

Autologous Multinucleated Stem Cells (MSCs), stem cells for short, are potent and valuable healers. They are harvested from each individual, have the unique ability to stimulate naturally and “morph” into healthy, mature cells to replace injured cells. When handled and injected correctly, stem cells help set up a healing environment and stimulate a regenerative process to create healthy tissue. In the process, cells differentiate, proliferate, and mature in the environment they’re placed. Simply put, this means stem cells are able to transform and develop into different types of healthy mature cells including bone cartilage, muscle, tendon, and ligament. By using a person’s own cells, the chances of infection or rejection are reduced. Click here to learn more about stem cells.

Stem cell therapy has been in use since the early 1990s. Recent advances in technology have improved the ease and safety of the therapy. Autologous stem cell therapy – meaning use of cells from your own body – is quickly gaining popularity as a means to treat painful injuries. Autologous stem cell treatment is a simple outpatient procedure at Southwest Spine & Sports. The all-natural therapy helps a wide range of patients, from those with acute muscle and/or ligament injuries, like professional athletes, to those with joint pain from arthritis, and low back pain from injured discs like degenerative disc disease. Stem cells used for treatment can be easily harvested from a patient’s bone marrow taken from the back of the hip. Cells are immediately prepared for reinjection using a specialized system to isolate and concentrate desired stem cells under sterile conditions. Patients’ own fresh stem cells are then injected into the injured area, always guided by either ultrasound or X-Ray fluoroscopy. At Southwest Spine & Sports the entire procedure is performed in our comfortable, state-of-the-art facility in only a few hours. Conscious sedation is offered to maximize patient comfortability.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, click here or call us today at (480) 860-8998.