Can ozone/oxygen injections really relieve back pain?
BY: Michael CastlemanAmong the many causes of back pain, herniated (aka slipped or ruptured) disks are common, painful and debilitating. Now, health experts are finding that a shot of ozone/oxygen injected directly into a ruptured disk is “as effective as surgery, but faster, easier, cheaper and less traumatic,” says interventional radiologist Kieran J. Murphy, M.D., chief of medical imaging at the University of Toronto.
In between the bones of your back are little cartilage disks. These disks act as shock absorbers, cushioning your spine and protecting it from damage as you move. But when a disk ruptures, its jelly-like filling spills out and presses on nearby nerves, causing serious pain. Back surgery cleans out the disk filling, relieving pressure on the nerves. But it’s invasive and requires extended recovery.
Ozone/oxygen injections eliminate the disk’s jelly filling by oxidizing it. The most familiar form of oxidation is burning. Fire can reduce a big log to a small amount of ash. When a combination of ozone and oxygen are injected into a ruptured disk, they do something similar without the fire.
Murphy learned about ozone/oxygen injections while working in Italy with the doctor who developed the procedure 10 years ago. He says that more than 20,000 Italians have been treated, with 80 percent experiencing relief and fewer than 1 percent reporting significant complications. This makes ozone/oxygen injections more effective and considerably safer than surgery, says Murphy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the procedure for use in the United States. In the meantime, ozone/oxygen injections have largely replaced disk surgery in Italy.
Michael Castleman has been called "one of the nation's leading health writers" (Library Journal). He is the author of 11 consumer health books and more than 1,500 health articles for magazines and the Web. Michael is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well.