Regenerating Facet Joints To End Back Pain

Protocol restores vertebral cushions using injections of natural healing factors.

Janet Goff

On May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of anti-war protestors at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine others.

The event, which became known as the Kent State massacre, triggered a massive student strike across the nation that forced hundreds of colleges and universities to temporarily cease operations. It was also instrumental in turning the tide of public opinion against the war in Southeast Asia.

Janet Goff was just a teenager then, but nearly 53 years later, she can still recall the anxiety she felt as a Kent resident during those events and their aftermath.

“We moved around because my dad was in the military, but he chose to retire in Kent,” recounts Janet, 68. “I was in high school at the time. My sister was actually working in the university’s ROTC building when all that broke out. It was a pretty scary time.”

When Janet became an adult, she left Kent, married and began traveling again, this time with her husband. Initially. Janet was a stay-at-home mom to their son. When her son got older, Janet began working outside the home to help with the family finances.

“I mostly did administrative-type work,” Janet relates. “I was a pharmacy technician for a while, and I worked in different offices. I worked for an engineering company and a brand development company. I was also a certified aerobics instructor. Of all my jobs, I liked teaching aerobics the best. It was fun helping women get in shape.

“I taught aerobics at the YMCA, at an after-school program for teachers and at several churches. I taught at a women’s fitness camp every summer. I also taught after-work classes for various corporations including Ohio Bell, the telephone company. I went to the jobsite, where a room was set up for the class.”

Now retired, Janet remains active. She fills her days with gardening, working out, biking and running. She also volunteers at church and a nursing home. But several years ago, her lifestyle took a hit when low back pain flared and grew progressively worse.

“I’m so active. … I feel like I’m 20 years younger.” – Janet

“I fought the pain for quite a while,” she says. “I think a lot of the problem was overuse and physical strain. I cut down a lot of trees, did a lot of yardwork and lifted a lot of things. For years, nothing stopped me, but I think that’s how I hurt myself.

“The pain was mostly in my hip, lower back and buttocks, and it was a sharp, shooting pain that eventually got so bad that I couldn’t get up or down or even stand because it felt like my leg wouldn’t hold me up.

“I had to quit exercising and doing yardwork and even had trouble cleaning my house at times. I was always hurting, and when you’re in pain like that, you don’t want to do anything but lie around. That’s what happened to me, and I put on a lot of weight because of it.”

Over the years, Janet visited several chiropractors who tried physical therapy, massage therapy, ice and heat, but those treatments provided only short-term relief.

Regenerative therapy resolved Janet’s back pain, making it possible to hoop again.

Then her massage therapist recommended she visit Dr. Jeffrey P. Johnson, lead provider at Johnson Medical Center in Venice. After a detailed examination, he determined the primary source of Janet’s pain was the facet joints in her lower spine.

“Those joints were degenerated and arthritic,” Dr. Johnson reports. “As a result of the degeneration, the material that cushions the bones of those joints had worn away, which allowed the bones to rub against each other, causing pain.”

The facet joints are pairs of small joints at each vertebral level of the spine. They connect the vertebrae and allow the spine to bend forward and backward. They are also a common cause of back pain.

In Janet’s case, Dr. Johnson first tried treating that pain with chiropractic and physical therapy. When those approaches alone failed to provide long-term relief, Dr. Johnson recommended another treatment called regenerative therapy.

Alternative to Surgery

Regenerative therapy is a nonsurgical option in which renewing substances are injected into the joint to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself.

Because injections are less invasive than surgery, patients recover much faster and there is less risk for complications such as bleeding and infection, which can occur with joint replacement and other types of surgery.

“Regenerative therapy provides an option for patients with conditions that I would have previously referred for surgery,” Dr. Johnson affirms. “It’s been a terrific addition to our practice, where we also use rehabilitation therapy, laser therapy, chiropractic and other modalities to assist with the process of rehabilitating damaged joints.

“The goal is for the treatment to be a long-term restorative event, not just a short-term fix. And best of all, it works. We’re seeing tremendous results with our regenerative therapy protocol. Within weeks of beginning treatment, patients are experiencing terrific relief from their joint pain. In a matter of months, we’re seeing an increase in the joint cushioning and true healing of the joint. You don’t see that level of healing with joint replacement or other surgery.”

Janet was deemed an excellent candidate for Johnson Medical Center’s regenerative therapy.

That protocol begins with a simple blood draw. The blood is then placed in a centrifuge, where it’s spun down to create enriched plasma, which contains healing and growth factors that help the body regenerate damaged tissue.

At Johnson Medical Center, a typical course of regenerative therapy calls for the patient to receive three weekly injections of enriched plasma.

“We then inject another material called micro human tissue, which contains even more of the vibrant substances that promote the body’s healing ability,” Dr. Johnson relates.

Micro human tissue is obtained from women who donate their babies’ umbilical cords following healthy births. The umbilical cord has protective tissue that surrounds the arteries and veins and is a vital component of fetal development.

“The enriched plasma gets the joint ready for the micro human tissue, which is the last injection of our protocol,” Dr. Johnson informs. “Micro human tissue is the most effective tissue we use to promote healing.”

At Johnson Medical Center, all regenerative therapy injections are administered by Mahendra Poonai, RN, APRN, FNP-BC, under ultrasound guidance, which ensures appropriate placement at the site of the degeneration and/or injury.

“Mahendra has traveled across the country to receive the best training in regenerative therapy techniques,” Dr. Johnson assures. “He has developed expertise in using ultrasound to get the enriched plasma and micro human tissue exactly where it needs to be for the treatment to be the most effective. It’s a very precise technique, and Mahendra does it well.”

As part of her treatment, Janet also received trigger point injections. This involves injecting a local anesthetic, sometimes combined with a natural anti-inflammatory medication, into a trigger point, which is a sensitive area of tight muscles, to relax the muscles and relieve pain. Mahendra delivers these injections as well.

“20 Years Younger”

After Dr. Johnson explained the regenerative therapy protocol to Janet, she was enthusiastic about trying the treatment. Once she did, she was amazed by how rapidly she noticed a difference in her pain.

“The therapy started working really quickly, within a couple of days of getting the micro human tissue injection,” Janet enthuses. “It alleviated the pain in my lower back, which is now gone. I have zero pain, which is just amazing.

“And thanks to that, I’m moving around again. I’m very active. I’m running, biking, exercising and gardening. I’m running around like I used to do. I feel like I’m 20 years younger, and because I’m stronger and more active, I’ve lost 12 pounds.”

Janet says she is delighted with the work and manner of Dr. Johnson as well as Johnson Medical Center’s staff.

“Dr. Johnson is a very nice man,” she raves. “His practice is very personable. He likes to talk to you about stuff, and he checks up on you during your treatment. The staff at Johnson Medical Center is also super nice and helpful. I definitely recommend them and have already given their number out to several people. I always tell people about them.”

Initial Problem

For Dawn Hucul and her husband, the annual migration from suburban Detroit to Florida began in 2006. Now, the couple spends the majority of the year — seven months — in the Sunshine State.

With her back and neck pain relieved, Dawn can swing a golf club with ease.

“We officially changed our residency to Florida last year,” says Dawn, a homemaker who often assisted her husband in his professional endeavors.

“My husband and I have done many things. My husband owned his own business. He’s an engineer. We’ve done a lot of work with the car companies. We built some homes, redid some homes. Today, we golf, ride bikes and try to live healthy, full, rounded lives.”

Nevertheless, Dawn’s health was recently compromised by a painful problem with her wrists.

“I had an issue with tendonitis, arthritis and carpal tunnel so severe I was facing surgery,” Dawn describes. “On a radio station in Michigan, I heard about a laser outfit that treats hockey players, sports people and people who’ve had surgery.

“The laser treatment was outside the insurance realm, but they offered one session for free. I thought, I’m going to give this a try before I go the surgery route. It worked spectacularly, but it’s an ongoing process. The results are cumulative. The more you do it, the more the inflammation goes down and the better you feel.”

After traveling to Florida, Dawn’s husband began looking for a local practice that offers the laser treatment. His search led him to Johnson Medical Center, which uses a better laser than the one that effectively addressed Dawn’s wrist pain.

“I feel better than I did before. The difference is just unbelievable.” – Dawn

“Dr. Johnson’s laser has kept my problem under control for years,” Dawn reports. “Then last year, not long after we came down to Florida, I totally overdid it. I overexercised, overcleaned my house and overused my neck. I couldn’t move my neck, which was awful.”

For help, Dawn returned to Johnson Medical Center, where spinal x-rays showed degeneration and disc problems in Dawn’s lower back and neck.

“It was a combination of pulled muscles and rubbing bones,” Dawn offers “It was a chiropractic and a soft tissue problem. I was in a really bad way.”

Dawn stays in shape with the help of yoga.

No Surprise

Finding degeneration in her lumbar spine was no surprise to Dawn. She’s struggled with sciatica and pain in her lower back for years.

“I’ve always had problems, but I didn’t know degeneration was the reason for my lumbar and sciatic issues,” Dawn relates. “I always thought it was because I had overdone something, like exercising, cleaning the house or gardening.

“But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, you actually have a problem, and this one left me in severe pain. It was a catch-your-breath pain, like Oogh. And my thoracic nerves were involved, so I couldn’t sneeze or take a deep breath without pain.

“It was a pain so bad that it affected my life, my personality, my relationships. If one person is in pain, it passes through the entire family.”

To alleviate the problem, Dr. Johnson recommended regenerative therapy. He was confident it could ease Dawn’s pain. Because she was eager to return to her active lifestyle, Dawn agreed to try the protocol.

“I was at the point where I had to do something, just to get back home to Michigan,” Dawn asserts. “We’d been in Florida since late November, and here I was still suffering in April.”

Dawn’s treatment began with trigger point injections, which “helped immensely right away,” according to Dawn. She then received enriched plasma and micro human tissue injections. She also underwent physical therapy.

“Now, my pain level is zero,” Dawn enthuses. “And I’m very active. I golf, swim, do cardio exercise twice a week and do hot yoga. I also do strength training twice a week.

“And I do everything better than I did before. I feel better than I did before. The difference is just unbelievable.

“I believe my success comes from a combination of Dr. Johnson’s protocol and doing everything I’m supposed to do to keep myself strong and healthy, everything Dr. Johnson and his team recommended.

“That’s why, if someone is on the fence about getting this regenerative therapy, I would say to them: You absolutely should try regenerative therapy before you do anything invasive. It makes that much of a difference.

“Going to Johnson Medical Center is an amazing experience. They have everything: the laser, the change-my-life physical therapy, the chiropractic and regenerative therapy. And everybody there knows what’s happening. Everybody’s on the same page, and everybody wants you to get better.”

© FHCN staff article. Photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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    • Johnson Medical Center

      Dr. Jeffery P. Johnson has practiced in Venice, Florida since 1986. His practice is focused on treating patients with many conditions, including those that are not responding to conventional treatments such as physical therapy, chiro... Read More

    • Jeffrey P. Johnson, DC

      Jeffrey P. Johnson, DC, has been in private practice since 1986. At Johnson Medical Center, Venice’s premier, fully integrated medical clinic, Dr. Johnson and his team can treat every member of the family. The practice specializes in di... Read More