Could this hydrogel put an end to chronic back pain?

Low back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions in adults. — Getty Images via ETX Studio

Low back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions in adults. — Getty Images via ETX Studio

Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 8:53 AM MYT

NEW YORK, June 16 — Could back pain soon be a thing of the past? In the United States, a team of researchers has developed a hydrogel to combat chronic low back pain. Less invasive than surgery and more effective than conventional treatments, this method has shown promising initial results.

About four in five people have suffered or will suffer from low back pain, according to Medicare. This severe pain in the lumbar vertebrae is one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions in adults.

In the United States, a new type of hydrogel, to be injected into the spinal discs, has proved to be “safe and effective in substantially relieving chronic low back pain caused by degenerative disc disease (DDD),” one of the most common causes of low back pain. The results of this experimental treatment are being presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology Annual Scientific Meeting, in Boston.

Called “Hydrafil,” the hydrogel received initial Food and Drug Administration validation in 2020. It is injected directly into affected spinal discs “where the gel filled in cracks and tears, adhering to the disc’s center and outer layer,” the company explains in a news release. The role of spinal discs is to facilitate movement and flexibility. However, as we age, they can deteriorate, causing pain and mobility loss.

“We really have no good treatments for degenerative disc disease, aside from conservative care,” said Dr. Beall, chief of radiology services at Clinical Radiology of Oklahoma and lead author of the study. “Surgery is statistically no more effective than conservative care and can potentially make things worse; nerve ablation is appropriate for only a few patients.”

This experimental treatment was tested on 20 patients aged 22 to 69 years. They suffered from chronic lower back pain caused by intervertebral disc dysfunction. Six months after the injection, the participants reported a decrease in their back pain, as well as an improvement in their physical condition. None of them had found any real relief from conservative care, such as rest, painkillers, physiotherapy and back braces.

“If these findings are confirmed in further research, this procedure may be a very promising treatment for chronic low back pain in those who’ve found insufficient relief from conservative care,” concludes Douglas P. Beall. “The gel is easy to administer, requires no open surgery, and is an easy procedure for the patient.” — ETX Studio


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