Scientists at the University of Toronto have conducted a study that indicates that injections of ozone gas into the spine helps relieve pain stemming from herniated disks. The researchers believe these findings may lead to fewer surgeries because some low back pain cases could be dealt with O3 injections.
From a statement by the Society of Interventional Radiology:
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of various results published for oxygen/ozone treatment in regards to pain relief, reduction of disability and risk of complications. More than 8,000 patients from multiple centers in multiple locations were included in the study. The estimated mean improvement for patients after treatment based on the 10-point visual analog scale (VAS), a standard tool for rating the disabling effects of back pain, was a change of 3.9 (with 0 being no pain and 10 representing worst pain experienced). The estimated mean improvement was 25.7 percent for the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), which measures one’s ability to manage everyday life—such as washing, dressing or standing (with 61 percent or higher representing back pain that has an impact on all aspects of daily living. The improvement scores for VAS and ODI outcomes are well above both the minimum clinically important difference and the minimum (statistically significant) detectable change, indicating that the improvement in pain and function is a real change that can be felt by the patient. Much research in oxygen/ozone treatments has been done by interventional radiologists in Italy, said Murphy, indicating that as many as 14,000 individuals have received this treatment abroad over the past five years.
The mechanism of action in relieving low back pain is complex; however, the primary effect is a volume reduction due to ozone oxidation. Researchers discovered that a simple incompressible fluid model predicted that reducing disk volume by 0.6 percent results in an intradiscal pressure reduction of 1 psi (pounds per square inch). Thus a very small change in volume creates a large change in disc pressure, which reduces the applied pressure on the nerve and relieves pain. This model confirmed that a minimalistic alternative to a diskectomy, such as oxygen/ozone treatment, is capable of relieving the pain caused by a herniated disk without causing irreparable damage.
Below is a talk given at Society of Interventional Radiology’s 34th Annual Scientific Meeting by Kieran J. Murphy, M.D., interventional neuroradiologist and vice chair and chief of medical imaging at the University of Toronto (link to PowerPoint slides) :
Press release: Oh, My Aching Back: Give Me a Shot of Ozone