Posts Tagged back pain


Posted by on Thursday, 29 April, 2010



Brian Saunders and Tony Freemont (University of Manchester) would inject a new kind of substance into aging spines to restore them to almost their “original” condition. Which we will discuss shortly. But first..

BACKS (According to MISTERScienceAintSoBad)

Your spine’s an upright column of bones (vertebrae) and disks. The disks are there to make things flexible and to absorb the shock from impact. The outer shell of the disk is fibrous. The inside’s pulpy.

It’s not a specially good design as it rarely outlasts the nose.

Long before your first midlife crisis, the disks are already drying up and cracking. Under considerable pressure, the pulp can squeeze out of the disks. Also, the disks, themselves, can become distorted or can start to fall apart (herniate). This can cause pressure against a nerve “root” where the nerve enters/leaves the spinal column.

That’s when you find yerself reading your emails on your side in bed.

If you lay around long enough and take anti-inflammatories, good chance you’ll be back to not getting enough exercise soon. Worst case, you’ll cycle through MRI’s, pills, injections, physical therapy, surgery, and prayer. Not necessarily that order.

A few months, and you get to repeat everything. This time, as an expert on the subject of back pain.

The crappy “intervertebral disk” is a constant annoyance to those who would argue that we got here from “Intelligent Design”. If this is intelligent design, what’s Dopey Design?


Kinda obvious that pressure against a nerve would cause pain.

Except for one thing.

Nerves CONDUCT sensations around the body. They don’t have pain sensors of their own. So why pain from pressure on a nerve?

Hey. Maybe it’s not really there! HUGE MISTERScienceAintSoBad breakthrough in orthopedics!! My first Nobel.

Back me out of the textbooks please. What’s going on: If you put constant pressure on a nerve, its blood supply (microvasculature) may get pinched, its outer cover (myelin sheath) may get scarred, causing a short circuit, or the nerve fibers may get stretched (constricted). All this stuff makes the nerve kinda hinkey, causing it to send bogus signals when it shouldn’t. The pain you feel isn’t from the site of the pressure, itself. It’s from the areas that are served by the  malfunctioning nerve.

NASA Mission Control would call this a “bad sensor”. A patient would call this a “bad day”.


Now, back to the guys from the University of Manchester.

MISTERScienceAintSoBad isn’t going to beat up on them. Their claims are reasonable. They say that their research is unfinished and they aren’t talking about a miracle cure.

Fair enough.

They are currently refining a fluid that they hope can be injected into a bad intervertebral disk. After being injected, the fluid will transform itself into a suitable substitute for the dehydrated nuceleus poposa, giving the spine a whole new life contract. If it works.


Something along these lines was  tried a few years ago, using a natural product (an extract from the papaya fruit called Chymopapain),  but, luckily for fruit lovers, it was abandoned when it turned out to have unacceptable side effects;   Saunders/Freemont get to study what went wrong there.

EverVigilant9 writes: What’re you NUTS? I had a back injection three weeks ago. No bigee! My doc says she’s been doing this a long time! So where’s the cheese, Big Boy?

OK. Good catch, EverVigilant.

Wrong ball though.

You’re getting steroidal injections (image guided), an accepted treatment for acute back pain. MISTERScienceAintSoBad knows this from personal experience. The difference is that those injections are intended to ease the inflammation of irritated tissue. Not as ambitious as the project we’re describing here. On the other hand, it’s real and in the clinic now. The Saunders/Freeman stuff is still a work-in-progress.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 4. One of those exciting ideas that’re full of potential and full of pitfalls.

Credit for top image (sans syringe):