Perpetual growth in mind, body, and soul is the philosophy professional body builder Eileen Wells lives by. Her everyday goal? Be better today than she was yesterday. As a professional competitor in the fitness division of the International Federation of BodyBuilding (IFBB) she was able to live by that mantra…until all of that changed in an instant. In 2014 a back injury took over her life—mind, body, and soul—and stopped her from competing and training. Thankfully, a lower back stem cell treatment got her “back” on track.
If you watch the video of Eileen’s story above, I think you will agree that the vast majority of us would consider her captivating strength and fitness abilities almost superhuman. In IFBB fitness competition, participants prepare a two-minute routine that shows off their personality, and they are judged on endurance, flexibility, strength, and overall performance. After Eileen’s back injury, not only could she not compete and train—she also couldn’t work out, she couldn’t satisfy her sponsorship (she is sponsored by MuscleEgg), and, in fact, she could barely walk at times.
Her favorite saying is, “You’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting,” and Eileen had been instantly thrust into the latter. She had no idea what to do, and when massage therapy, chiropractic work, and water therapy didn’t work, she started where most of us would have…with traditional medicine.
The symptoms of Eileen’s injury began as stabbing pain in her low back during exercise. She also experienced numbness that traveled down into the top of her foot. An MRI displayed the troubling diagnosis: a herniated disc at S1–L5, a bulging disc at L4–L5, and above that, a cyst in a facet joint.
During her traditional-medicine route, she underwent steroid injections and began taking prescription drugs and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories to control her pain. She knew the anti-inflammatories were counterproductive and likely prolonging recovery, but without them the pain made it difficult just to walk. It was also all very expensive, as these days in our new world of sky-high copays and deductibles, even traditional medicine costs and arm and a leg. In her words:
You go to bed and hope that the next day you’re in less pain, but you’re not. After period of time, you don’t even want to be around yourself. I’m sure the people around me probably suffered with me, especially my husband. It damages you more mentally than physically for sure.
Two surgeons told her if the pain continued, her next step would be a spinal fusion, which uses screws and rods to “lock” together two or more vertebrae in the spine permanently, stopping the natural movement in that segment of the spine and leading to adjacent segment disease as more pressure is put on the segment above and below the fusion. She was also smart enough to know that few patients that get this barbaric procedure ever return to the level of fitness where she wanted to be.
Finally, a third surgeon gave her an honest answer: “Listen,” he said, “if you were my sister, I would tell you to do anything besides surgery.”
Eileen learned about Regenexx and stem cell injections from Carol Semple, Ms. Fitness Olympia. Dr. Pitts reviewed Eileen’s MRI and spent and hour with her in physical examination, and ultimately determined she was a good candidate for a lower back stem cell treatment. During her first procedure, we used our proprietary, high-growth-factor platelet lysate to reduce swelling around the back nerves without harmful steroids. After that, she was able to stop her prescription and anti-inflammatory drugs. Then, Dr. Pitts performed a second round of platelet lysate and added a precise fluoroscopically guided stem cell injection into her damaged low back disc, harvesting bone marrow stem cells from Eileen’s hip.
She had the lower back stem cell treatment in September of 2015. The video above was filmed in May of 2016. It shows her progress from the awful disability she experienced at her low points during the 17 months she was out of commission. She had already shared her amazing lower back stem cell recovery training videos with us via Facebook and above you see her returning to the “green and growing” fitness path. Eileen shares her success in her own words below:
I was able to walk up and down stairs within 10 days. When I first started physical therapy again after the stem cell injections, I could only hold a plank for about five seconds, and now [May 2016] I can do one-arm push-ups again.
Eileen is back to her full training schedule and, the best news of all, she’s back on the competition circuit and will be competing in the IFBB PBW Tampa Pro Championships in August.
The upshot? We were the first in the world in 2005-6 to offer lower back stem cell treatment for damaged discs, so we’ve learned a lot in the last decade. With our broad spine offerings that include proprietary platelet lysates and stem cells, Eileen was able to reclaim her mantra. As she says, “You’re either green and growing or you’re ripe and rotting.” Which one are you?
*DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.
Providers listed on the Regenexx website are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation from Regenexx for a specific provider or a guarantee of the outcome of any treatment you receive.
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…