RC: Hello, everyone. This is Liz Harvey coming to you from our studios in New York City where we are dedicated to bringing you top quality advice from many of the leading expert professionals across the U.S.
In today’s episode, we are speaking with Dr. Warren J. Bleiweiss, a leader in the United States in the emerging medical field of oxygen ozone injection therapy for the treatment of herniated discs, joint and muscle pain, and injuries.
Dr. Bleiweiss pioneered oxygen-ozone disc injection therapy in the U.S. He is a graduate of New York University School of Medicine and is Board Certified in both Anesthesiology and Pain Management. His long list of accomplishments includes leadership experience as a hospital anesthesiology department director, the inventor of a patented medical device, and the founder of one of the first multi-disciplinary pain management centers in New Jersey. He has been successfully treating patients for over 30 years.
Dr. Bleiweiss specializes in minimally invasive alternative treatments that heal patients without surgery or potentially harmful medications. His treatment protocols are specifically designed to activate the body’s innate ability to recover and regenerate. His practice has been producing excellent results by utilizing these alternative methods.
Today we are focusing on one of these alternative non-surgical treatments, oxygen ozone disc injection therapy, a safe and effective treatment for neck and back pain caused by disc diseases such as herniations. Hello, Dr. Bleiweiss. How are you today?
Dr. Warren Bleiweiss: I’m very well, thank you. How are you?
RC: I’m doing great. Thanks so much for joining me.
Let’s start by explaining what oxygen ozone injection therapy is and how you came to practice it.
Dr. Warren Bleiweiss: Well, oxygen ozone injection therapy is harnessing the power of a supercharged form of oxygen, which is ozone. Ozone is three oxygen molecules that are joined together and this is created in a pure oxygen environment. It is medical oxygen ozone which is different than the ozone that you might have heard of in the atmosphere which exists in a nitrogen and oxygen atmosphere. There are also pollutants that could contaminate it.
This is a very pure, specific concentration of ozone in oxygen that is used for medical purposes. It is an amazing medical treatment that is effective in a variety of medical conditions and in particular, a variety of pain conditions. It’s been used in Europe for over 75 years and it has been demonstrated to be safe and effective in thousands of medical research studies. It has many beneficial effects in the treatment of these conditions that I mentioned.
The way I came to use it is I’ve been practicing for 30 years. I have always had a quest to find the safest, most effective alternative treatments for my patients. Although surgery is a great treatment for many conditions, my treatments are geared towards avoiding surgery and avoiding changing the anatomy of the body. They are geared towards healing the structures that we have and not changing the structures, so I’m always looking for the safe and effective treatments that are considered alternative.
Part of my due diligence is to peruse the literature and see what is going on in the medical community. About 10 years ago, I read about ozone injection therapy and the first thing I did is try to read every medical study that I could possibly get my hands on. The more I read about it, the more amazing it sounded. It fit all the criteria that I look for: safe, effective, long-lasting treatment.
The next step that I undertook was to travel to Europe and work with some of the physicians who actually do these procedures in Europe and who actually wrote some of the papers and did some of the clinical studies. After that, I attended some conferences in Europe. When I felt I was very proficient, I started treating my patients with oxygen ozone injection therapy and I had amazing results. I continue to have amazing results, so I’m very happy with the treatment.
How does oxygen ozone disc injection therapy safely treat neck and back pain from herniated disc conditions?
Dr. Warren Bleiweiss: It has a very powerful healing effect on the disc. I want to stress the healing effect because as I just talked about, part of the goal in addition to getting the patients better is to preserve the normal anatomy. This is particularly important with the spinal disc. It has a very powerful healing effect and it’s just as effective as surgery. One of the main things that the treatment does is it shrinks the disc just enough to take the pressure off of the nerve.
It doesn’t shrink it a lot. It just shrinks it enough to take the pressure off the nerve. The pressure of the disc on the nerve is what causes the pain in the first place, so it accomplishes that goal. But it also has a lot of other properties that are really great for the health of the disc. One thing it does is it stimulates fibroblast proliferation.
Now proliferation is a medical term, but it essentially means that it stimulates the fibroblasts, which are the cells that are present in connective tissue and really form a lot of the integrity of the connective tissue. It stimulates those cells to reproduce more cells, so that’s different than making the cells bigger or stronger. There are more of those cells.
That is a potentially powerful healing effect for, let’s say, a tear in the outer layer of the disc, which is called the annulus. It also, which is very important for the disc, it increases blood flow and an increase of lymphatic drainage. Now that’s very important in particular for a spinal disc because a disc in the spine, which we call an intervertebral disc meaning that it’s between two vertebral bodies which are the bones above and below, the discs do not have a direct blood flow.
They get all of their nutrients and oxygen through diffusion from blood vessels that are located in the vertebral bodies above and below. They eliminate the waste products from metabolism the same way, so it is very, very important to maintain blood flow in those vertebral bodies. That is exactly what the treatment does. It also has a very powerful anti-inflammatory effect. The other thing that’s extremely important is it supercharges the body’s ability to cope with oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is one of the main stresses that the body encounters in daily life. Ozone will upgrade the enzymes that we normally have to cope with this stress. That essentially makes the disc more resilient to further injury and it’s a very, very important aspect of the ozone treatment. The other effects are it is very long-lasting. It doesn’t change the anatomy, which I believe I discussed already, and in addition to being very safe, there is no downside to the treatment. It is an extremely effective and safe procedure.
How do you determine if a patient is a candidate for this therapy?
Dr. Warren Bleiweiss: When a patient comes to see me, I always start from the beginning. I never use another doctor’s diagnosis. I always start from the very beginning and do a careful history, a careful review of all the records, and very importantly, I do a careful physical examination. Once I do that, then I determine what the best treatment is. Sometimes a patient will come to me with a disc herniation and they were told they need surgery.
They want the ozone treatment and I will find that they have another issue that has to be addressed. Sometimes it is very easy to treat and sometimes it requires additional medical care. For example, I have a lot of success stories. Some of my patients are really happy to share their stories. On my website, there is a patient, her first name is Susanna. Now she came to me; I treated her son about eight years ago.
He had a herniated disc and I treated him with ozone injection therapy into his disc and he did extremely well. He still is doing extremely well. When his mother was told she had a disc herniation and needed surgery, and by two separate surgeons and she treated with physical therapy and other modalities and didn’t get better, she came to me and said, “Listen, I don’t want surgery. I’d really like you to do the ozone injection.”
When I did my normal due diligence I always do, I determined that it was not her back, it was her hip that was the problem. I did an MRI of the hip and indeed she had a very serious problem with her hip and wound up instead of having back surgery, having hip surgery which cured her problem. I can’t stress the importance of starting from the beginning, not going with someone else’s diagnosis, and doing all of the due diligence that a physician has to do to make sure treatment is right for a patient.
What can someone new expect during an oxygen ozone disc injection therapy treatment and how quickly can someone feel the results?
Dr. Warren Bleiweiss: One of the great things about this treatment is it is an outpatient procedure with no downtime. I do it at a surgery center. It has to be done under fluoroscopic guidance and strict sterile technique. Fluoroscopic guidance is key. I am going to take a step back. The ozone is injected through a very small needle that is guided into the disc. If the needle is not exactly in the right spot in the disc, the procedure won’t work well, so that is an extremely important part of the procedure.
I use fluoroscopic guidance which we have at the surgery center. I use very strict sterile techniques. Some of the methods that I use for sterility I actually developed myself. We usually give them mild sedation. We always give a local anesthesia and a mild sedation. Some of my patients don’t want to be sedated and that is fine. I have been told by the patients who don’t want sedation that the procedure was not uncomfortable, but most patients want a little bit of, let’s say, a Valium-type compound just to relax a little.
I do the procedure under fluoroscopic guidance. It usually takes about an hour and the patient recovers quickly. They go home that day and the next day, they could go back to work and go about their usual activity. In terms of how quickly someone feels results, the average is about two weeks. I have had patients who had results almost immediately and I have had patients who have noted results after more than four weeks.
The interesting thing is that the effectiveness of the procedure that they note, so how effective the procedure is does not correlate with how long it takes the patient to get results. In other words, the patients who get results the next day don’t necessarily get better or worse results than the patient who it might take four or five weeks to get results.
What are the main reasons people should try this therapy instead of opting for disc surgery?
Dr. Warren Bleiweiss: I want to take a step back and talk about the health of the spinal disc, which is an extremely, extremely important topic. As we age, the discs in our spine will slowly deteriorate over time. And the degree of deterioration could be minimal, almost nothing, or it could be severe. And I have been treating patients for 30 years; I see a lot of patients with spine problems. And the difference between an individual who has a healthy spine, let’s say in their 70s and 80s, and an individual who has an unhealthy spine is significant. There is no comparison.
And if we all work really hard and we try to stay in shape, hopefully, and we want to have a nice life as we get older and retire and spend time with our loved ones and we’re typically not working when we’re older and want to do more, if the spine is healthy and has not degenerated much, we could do so many more things. If the spine is not healthy, for example, a lot of elderly people develop a condition called spinal stenosis. Now, spinal stenosis is something that develops over time when the discs are disrupted. Because the discs are disrupted, it leads to all kinds of other arthritic problems that develop over time. And that leads to a narrowing of the spinal canal. Once that happens, it significantly interferes with the life of the individual who has it.
For example, the pain is very typically categorized as pain when someone stands or walks. And that is very limiting. If you can’t take a walk in the park with your spouse or significant other, if you can’t walk around the mall, if you can’t stand and make a meal, if you keep having to sit down, those are very significant things. And how about playing golf or any of the other activities that you or I might enjoy as we get older and have more time to do? You can’t do it. Or you can just do it for a brief time. And if you can’t do these activities, it also could affect the rest of your body. For example, you could gain more weight, you’re exercising less. It is a little depressing. Not major depression but it is kind of depressing when you can’t do the things that you really love.
So, the health of your spine is an extremely, extremely important thing for the rest of your life. And we only get one spine and one disc. And then if you try to correct the spinal stenosis surgically, there are multiple surgical treatments that are very good, but we’re talking about surgery when you’re older. And often it leads to a spinal fusion, which is a problem for the levels above and below because they have to work much harder. So it is not an ideal situation.
The best situation is to prevent it from happening in the first place. So the ozone disc injection therapy does not disrupt the disc. It is actually very healthy for the disc. It does so many positive things for the disc. When I say disc, I mean spinal disc or intervertebral disc. I will talk about just a few of them. I believe I might have mentioned it earlier, but it increases blood flow to the vertebral bodies, which are the bones above and below the disc, which is how the disc gets all of its oxygen and nutrients. It decreases inflammation, it helps the fibrous tissue around the disc that holds the disc in place grow, proliferate, which means increasing the number and size of cells. And it very importantly helps the disc cope with oxidative stress. And oxidative stress is an enormous problem for the body. And the human body, and the animal kingdom in general, every organism on the planet Earth, has a way of coping with oxidative stress. Otherwise, without the ability to cope with it, we would cease to exist.
And the way we cope with it is with enzymes. And enzymes are like factories that could handle millions of reactions a second. And when we are confronted with an oxidative stress, for example free radicals, the enzymes could deactivate them very quickly. So ozone is unique when comparing it to all other compounds and the fact that it upgrades the amount of the enzymes that cope with oxidative stress. So, what does this mean to the disc? It means that it is going to be healthier. It means that it is going to be more resilient to further injuries. And that is a huge, huge plus.
The other thing is when surgery is performed, in addition to it disrupting the disc, either mechanically or by pulling a piece out or lasering it with energy from a laser and creating a pocket in the disc, the disc height will decrease. With ozone injection therapy, the herniated disc portion will shrink a little, just enough to get the pressure off the nerve. But you are not disrupting the disc height. Now that is extremely important because when you disrupt the height of the disc, when you decrease it, since the disc is the front of the spine, the back of the spine will also decrease in height. And the back of the spine has a lot of very important structures. Two of which are the facet joints and the neuroforamina, which are the tunnels that the nerves go through. So, if the height of the back of the spine is disrupted, then those two structures will have more stress. The facet joints will be more prone to arthritic changes and the neuroforamina, which is the tunnel that the nerve comes out of will be smaller. Therefore, the nerve is more prone to being pinched (in layman’s terms) and injured.
This aspect of ozone injection therapy for herniated discs versus surgery for herniated discs is an extremely, extremely important point for the long-term health of the spine.
One of the main reasons is the fact that it is just as effective as surgery with almost no risk. That is an extremely, extremely important reason. Sometimes surgery is necessary. For example, if a disc or a spine condition is compressing the spinal cord and a patient has loss of bowel or bladder function, that patient needs surgery. But for the vast majority of patients, particularly patients with pain of the back, of the leg, even numbness or weakness if the weakness is not extremely profound, the ozone disc injection therapy is a much better treatment for the reason that I mentioned just now.
Again, I just want to stress this because it is so important. It is just as effective as surgery with almost no risk. The other main thing is, it does not alter the anatomy of the disc. That is an extremely important point because we only get one disc at each level. We are born with it and it’s with us for life. I mentioned earlier that the disc gets most of its nutrients from blood vessels above and below it, so it is a pretty fragile environment.
It is a great structure, very resilient, but if it gets off-balance, it is very hard for it to get back into balance. For example, the skin has a lot of blood flow. If you cut your skin, if you get a paper cut, it heals quite quickly and it heals well. That’s because the skin has a great blood supply and there are other, there are a lot of other differences obviously between the skin and the disc. But for example, it has a great blood supply.
If the disc in the spine, the intervertebral disc gets damaged or injured, it does not recover quickly and oftentimes, it does not recover at all. The goal of surgery is exactly the same as the goal of ozone disc injection. As physicians, we want to help our patients. We want to get our patients better, but the approach is totally different. When you have surgery no matter what type of surgery it is, whether it is microscopic, endoscopic, laser surgery, you’re disrupting the disc.
You are either taking out a piece of it or you are blasting it with laser energy to create a pocket where the herniation could be sucked into or absorbed into. That disrupts the disc and it is not healthy for the disc. That is one of the big reasons that I find the ozone disc injection to be better than the surgery. The ozone disc injection is actually healthy for the disc. It is safe, it is effective, it is long-lasting and the biggest thing is, it could be repeated.
Let’s take a scenario of so most patients get a lot of improvement from the procedure and they do very well and they do well for a long time. But let’s take a scenario where we’ll take two patients: one has surgery, one has ozone disc injection, oxygen ozone disc injection therapy, and they both have the same result. They both get 50% better. They are happy, but they want more relief. They have less pain, they are functioning better, but they want greater relief of the pain and they want to do more.
Now with surgery, you are not going to do a second procedure. Almost never because if you look at the studies, the statistics are very poor for someone improving with a second procedure. Every time you do a procedure on the spine, there is an increased risk. I mean there is the same risk and there is also the risk of scarring. With ozone disc injection therapy, it could be repeated. In fact, not only is there no downside to repeating it, there is actually a cumulative positive effect from repeating it because of the things that I just mentioned.
The increased blood flow, the increased ability for the body to cope with oxidative stress, and some of the other things that I repeated. It is very beneficial to the health of the disc and it helps prevent future injuries. In my mind, it is the best option for treating discs that are causing pain and dysfunction. That’s why when people find out about it, they want it. I get people who want to have the procedure and come to me for treatment from all over North America and other parts of the world, also. It has been a very satisfying experience for me and for my patients.
RC: Well, thank you so much, Dr. Bleiweiss. I know you’re busy, so I want to thank you for all of your time and your help today.
Dr. Warren Bleiweiss: You’re welcome.