“Stem cell surgery relieved golfer Jack Nicklaus of a lifetime of back pain. But experts say it’s too early to tell whether this treatment is for everybody.
Golfer Jack Nicklaus is a legend of his sport, winning 18 major championships throughout an illustrious career that spanned more than a quarter century.
During this time, Nicklaus experienced severe back pain. Cortisone shots provided some level of immediate relief, but the long-term pain persisted.
Now the 78-year-old is touting an experimental stem cell surgery that he says is more effective than anything else he’s tried.
The surgery, under the guidance of German scientist and physician Eckhard Alt, was performed two years ago in Munich.
Once isolated, the stem cells are injected back into the body, on either side of the spine in the lower back and neck regions.
It’s an intriguing use of stem cells, but an expert interviewed by Healthline says that, considering the wide range of reasons for back pain and the unproven nature of the therapy, it simply can’t be recommended to the general public at this point.
“This is not an approved therapy,” said Dr. Jaime Imitola, director of the Progressive Multiple Sclerosis Multidisciplinary Clinic and Translational Research Program in the Department of Neuroscience at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
“These types of unapproved therapies are happening more and more often, but the difference here is that Jack Nicklaus is a public figure whose opinion will sway a lot of people into doing things like this,” Imitola added.
Many types of back pain
Nicklaus’ specific ailment was facet joint syndrome, a condition in which the joints that help articulate and move the spine deteriorate. The ailment often causes severe pain in the lower back.
Typical treatment involves anti-inflammatory drugs and physiotherapy. If these measures don’t work, a slightly more invasive option is cortisone steroid injections.”