Madison (WKOW) -- Millions of Americans suffer from lower back pain.
Now, there's an injectable protein that may provide relief.
Brian Mikesell's nagging low back pain almost had him down for the count.
He said, "there were days that, you know, I'd get out of my truck coming home from work and, you know, I'd literally climb up the stairs to get home."
His doctor said he had degenerative disk disease that might require surgery.
But as luck would have it, brian was a perfect candidate for a non-surgical, experimental treatment.
Mikesell said, "when he offered this to me, I was more than happy to be a volunteer. Absolutely."
Doctor Jeff Fischgrund said, "what we've been looking at is this protein called OP-1. It's called osteogenic protein one."
Doctor Jeff Fischgrund is studying OP-1 to see if it can stimulate the growth of new spinal disk tissue.
Doctor Fischgrund said, "so what our goal is, to try to inject this liquid protein into these unhealthy disks and actually grow new cartilage which is a revolutionary treatment compared to the standard treatments of taking the whole disk out and either fusing or putting in a disc replacement."
With the help of x-ray guidance, doctors place the needle into the disk and inject less than a teaspoonful of the protein.
The procedure takes about a minute.
"The patients, we usually watch for two or three hours just to make sure there's no reactions and then they're free to go home and resume their normal activities usually within 24 to 48 hours," said Fischgrund.
The two-year study is double blind so participants don't know if they get the real protein or a fake.
All Brian knows is that, since the injection, his back is feeling pretty good.
He said, "I can actually bend over and stand up. I mean, I, the difference is night and day."
Now he hopes his luck is here to stay.
OP-1 is made from a protein found naturally in the body.
New studies may start up in the spring of 2009.