How Stem Cell Therapy Helped Gregg Regain his Active LIfestyle
Even the hot July sun over southern Utah couldn’t spoil a hike for Gregg Fiehler. The joy of walking has a new meaning for Fiehler. He hiked 7 miles in Zion National Park during a particularly hot and humid week this summer. The miles amounted to more than a long trek. They represented a breakthrough. Fiehler hadn’t walked half that distance in 5-6 years. Prior too recently, just a couple of miles would have created problems.
“If I got over 2 miles,” Fiehler says, “I’d pay for it that night.”
A software architect from Phoenix, Fiehler, 50, had been dealing with chronic low back pain for approximately 15 years. A variety of treatments and therapies offered only modest relief, but nothing lasted.
“I suffered the original injury 15 years ago, moving furniture,” Fiehler says. “I knew I tore something.”
The furniture move was a solo effort and Fiehler wound up on the floor, unable to move. With no one nearby to hear him, he had to pull the phone off the table by its chord to call an ambulance. Over the course of the next 15 years, Fiehler learned a lot about the nature of pain.
Fiehler underwent extensive treatment and therapies including Physical therapy, epidural injections, medication management all of which only offered moderate, short term relief. Most of Fiehler’s pain from the disc injury was nerve-related pain, he says. He endured a lot of physical therapy, but that doesn’t help nerve pain. “It made me stronger,” Fiehler says. “It kept me from injuring myself.” But the amount of pain never subsided, the number of painkillers and anti-inflammatories never decreased.
After a few epidural injections gave no relief, hope had just about vanished. “I had three,” Fiehler says. “One helped a tiny bit. One was neutral. One made me worse.”
Then, Fiehler made a visit to Southwest Spine & Sports last November. A thorough history and physical exam lead to the diagnosis of a disc tear as the possible cause of Fiehler’s chronic low back pain. He eventually underwent an injection using his own stem cells injected into the disc and it made a big difference.
Biologic therapy, autologous stem cells in Fiehler’s case offered him an opportunity to return to the active lifestyle he enjoyed before the ill-fated furniture move. “I used to run, play basketball, hike, and things like that” he says.
Stem cell therapy brings rapid relief, though full recovery is not exactly immediate. Fiehler improved to about 50% of normal use four months after the procedure. Best of all, though, Fiehler notes that 5-6 months after the first treatment, he hasn’t had any nerve pain, just muscle pain as he tries to rebuild muscles he couldn’t use because the nerve pain was strong.
“I used to wake up in the middle of the night,” Fiehler recalls. “I couldn’t sleep because the pain was so bad. Now, working with Dr. Wolff, I’ve been able to return to a muscle-strengthening program.” His work creating new software requires him to sit for long stretches. That, too, was impossible with the high level of pain he suffered. “I’ve been working 16-hour days on deadline lately,” Fiehler says. “That wasn’t possible before. Now, the muscles need work, but my back is much better.”