Standard of care for this joint pain due to arthritis in the spine involves injection of steroid into the joint or performing an ablation procedure to the nerves that go to these facet joints. Regenerative medicine treatments of the facet joints could possibly slow or reverse the arthritis process. As these joints become arthritic and enlarged, other spine pathologies develop including spinal stenosis and nerve root impingement (sciatica). The evidence supporting stem cell procedures for facet joint arthritis is limited and the procedure is still considered experimental by insurance companies.
Rafael suffered severe back pain in January 2014 during the final of the Australian Open when he lost to Stan Wawrinka. His treating physician, Dr Ruiz-Cotorro, reported that Rafael was dealing with back pain typical to tennis players. Rafael had previously used a stem cell treatment for a knee injury the year prior. Ruiz-Cotorro stated that the back pain was due to facet arthritis and decided to treat it with stem cells. These cells were taken out of his bone marrow and cultured to produce a larger amount of cells.