For Back Pain, OsteoSponge Might Be Medicine’s Latest Wonder Treatment


OsteoSponge StripWhen you have a mess to clean up, you usually grab a sponge to help get the job done. But what happens when the mess is actually inside your body, specifically in your back?

For that, you’d probably need a sponge that’s made of something other than foam or cellulose fibers, as most conventional kitchen and cleaning sponges are. You’d probably need something fashioned from human tissue in order to promote seamless integration back into the body. That’s where the OsteoSponge can come in handy.

The OsteoSponge is a new development in back pain treatment from medical manufacturing company Bacterin International, and it’s composed from the musculoskeletal tissue of human donors. Bacterin’s Dan Goldberger appeared on Good Morning Arizona on Feburary 2 to talk about the breakthrough, highlighting how its unique properties have made it so successful in treating chronic back pain in the patients who’ve undergone surgery to try it.

“These are procedures that dramatically improve the quality of life,” Goldberger said. “They relieve back pain, they restore you to your normal day-to-day activities.”

Goldberger also referred to the surgeons who carry out the surgeries as “magicians,” and although it might sound like a whole lot of medical hocus-pocus, here’s a breakdown of exactly what happens when a patient elects to undergo a procedure for the benefit of an OsteoSponge.

Bacterin works with donor networks to obtain the musculoskeletal tissue needed to manufacture the OsteoSponge. Once they have the human tissue, they remove all the calcium from the bone, changing its texture to a more spongy, squishy material.

Take, for example, the lumbar fusion procedure, common among those attempting to treat their back pain surgically. In the main surgery, two or more vertebrae are joined together with a metal or plastic piece. The OsteoSponge can be added to those inserts in order to help the bone cells heal and expand over time, thus encouraging a more natural healing process.

But it’s not just those undergoing lumbar fusion that can take advantage of the OsteoSponge. Any cervical spine surgeries, which target the higher portions of the spine closer to the neck, can also use the OsteoSponge, as can any other procedures that involve the healing of bones, says Goldberger.

This is good news for folks who suffer chronic or persistent back pain due to disjointed vertebrae. It’s also good news for folks who might be expecting more issues with back pain in the future. And, if a story from today’s Morning Edition on NPR is any indication, back injuries just might be spiking for younger crowds who enjoy kicking a ball around after school.

Children who practice one organized sport for several hours per week, especially soccer, are facing chronic back pain at previously unheard-of rates, the story reports. One doctor even conducted a study of nearly 1,200 young athletes that found that back injuries were third-most common injuries overall, right after those suffered by knees and ankles. These injuries are often so severe that they pose the threat of long-term problems in the future.

In other words, it’s never too early to be thinking taking better care of your back. For young athletes, it might help to diversify their efforts, so they’re not working out the same groups of muscles all the time. For older people, it helps to stay active, too, and try to maintain a healthier, more balanced diet.

But when all else fails, there’s OsteoSponge, modern medicine’s latest seeming wonder treatment.

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