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Back Pain Health Center

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Ozone May Help Herniated Disc Pain

Injecting Ozone Gas Into the Spine May Relieve Lower Back Pain, Study Says
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 9, 2009 -- An experimental treatment that involves injections of ozone gas into the spine is showing promise for the relief of herniated disc-related lower back pain.

Its supporters say ozone therapy could become a standard treatment for the condition within the next five years in the United States, but a back pain specialist who spoke to WebMD remains unconvinced.

A researcher who has treated close to 50 people with a combination of ozone and oxygen since 2005 says between 50% and 60% of patients with pain from herniated discs could be good candidates for the minimally invasive procedure.

Interventional radiologist Kieran Murphy, MD, of the University of Toronto says ozone therapy could even help some patients avoid back surgery.

Murphy presented findings from his own animal studies today at the annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology in San Diego.

The studies suggest that ozone therapy works by shrinking herniated discs.

1 in 10 Patients Need Treatment

As many as 80% of adults in the U.S. suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives, and for many, the cause is a herniated disc.

The condition occurs when the spongy cushions, or discs, that serve as shock absorbers for the spine become inflamed and bulge or break open. A herniated disc of the lower spine can cause pain in the back, buttocks, and legs with numbness and weakness when bulging discs press against nearby nerves.

About half of the people with herniated disc-related pain will recover within a month, and nine out of 10 will get better within three to six months without surgical treatment.

“About 10% of people with herniated discs end up requiring surgery, and about 90% of patients who have surgery get better,” says Scott D. Boden, MD, who directs the Emory Orthopedics and Spine Center in Atlanta.

Because so many people with pain from herniated discs get better on their own, Boden tells WebMD that it is hard to prove that treatments like ozone therapy actually work.

“It is difficult to determine if patients who report less pain are responding to these treatments or just getting better on their own,” he says.

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