Stem Cell Therapy for Chronic Pain Management: Review of Uses, Advances, and Adverse Effects

Pain Physician. 2017 May;20(4):293-305.


Background: This review article outlines the recent advances, uses, and adverse effects of cell-based therapy for chronic pain management. Cell based therapies are gaining increasing ground as novel treatment modalities for a variety of pain pathologies that include, but are not limited to, neuropathic pain and degenerative disc disease. As these treatment modalities become more common practice, we have focused our review to provide pain practitioners and other practicing physicians an understanding of the technology and to summarize key clinical data and existing clinical trials that are being pursued by clinical investigators worldwide.

Objective: Review of stem cell technology and applications in pain management.

Study design: Narrative review.

Methods: The Pubmed NCBI and EMBASE databases was utilized to review published reports of clinical studies reported from 2000 to 2015, and ( search function was used to document ongoing clinical trials [keywords: "chronic pain," "disc pain," "cell therapy," "osteoarthritis," "neuropathic," "stem cell"] currently active and recruiting patients.

Results: Articles were screened by title, abstract, and full article review. They were then analyzed by specific clinical indications and appropriate data were presented based on critical analysis of those articles.

Limitations: More studies looking at the systematic use of stem cells in pain management will be required to draw conclusions about the benefits of the technology.

Conclusion: Though the data from existing studies look promising for the use of stem cells as a novel therapeutic strategy for discogenic pain, neuropathic pain, and osteoarthritis, additional clinical studies will be needed to validate the benefit of the technology for clinical use. However, we hope that this narrative review will help guide pain physicians in making informed decisions for their patients about the potential of cell-based therapy for treating chronic pain conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / therapy*
  • Neuralgia / therapy
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*