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Everything You Need To Know About Spinal Decompression Therapy

Understanding Spinal DecompressionBack pain is all too common in our culture. Whether due to trauma, wear and tear or simply aging, back pain causes millions of people to seek relief in any way, shape or form they can find. Usually those options are limited to pain medications, manual manipulation, physical therapy, surgery, or some combination of the above. Unfortunately, many of these options simply mask the pain or provide short-term relief, and further treatment must be sought.

Spinal decompression therapy offers another option. This non-invasive treatment can actually fix the underlying cause of the pain and provide permanent relief.

Understanding Spinal Decompression Therapy

Spinal decompression therapy is a relatively new technique that arose in 1991. This breakthrough treatment provides long-lasting, oftentimes permanent, relief from back pain. A major study in 2001 found an 86% success rate for spinal decompression patients who suffered from severely herniated discs.

To understand how the technique works you need to understand a few basics about the anatomy of the spine. Spinal vertebrae are cushioned by discs, which act as shock absorbers. The disc is made up of two parts, a soft jelly-like substance that is made of water and nutrients in the middle and cartilage, which surrounds and protects the gelatinous inside.

When a disc starts to bulge as a result of trauma or wear and tear, the jelly-like substance starts to push outward, but it is still contained. This forces the cartilage to push against nerves, which causes pain. If the disc bulges too much, a herniation or tear occurs and the jelly pushes out of the disc, hitting nerves and causing pain. Minor disc bulges can be treated through chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy or acupuncture, but severe herniation requires more extreme treatment. Many times physical therapy is attempted and pain relievers are prescribed, but they don’t always get to the underlying root of the problem. The disc compresses and cause pain.

Spinal Decompression Therapy works by slowly and methodically pulling and relaxing the spinal vertebrae. This is done with the use of a mechanical device that is computer-controlled to deliver precise angles and force. This mechanism reduces the body’s natural reflexive reaction to resist and, as a result, gets all the muscles surrounding the spine to relax. Once the muscles are relaxed, the opening and closing of the discs create a vacuum or suction effect to the jelly-like interior in the disc. This causes the jelly material to retreat to its proper place and the pain is eliminated because the problem that was pinching the nerve is gone.

Spinal decompression therapy is done in the healthcare provider’s office and usually lasts 25-30 minutes per session. Patients remain fully clothed, the treatment is non-invasive, so there are no needles or pain to worry about. Treatment can actually be very relaxing and many patients even fall asleep. Spinal decompression therapy has results superior to surgery without the associated cost or risks.

The length of time a patient must be treated varies with the patient and their condition, but generally requires 20-40 sessions to ensure complete decompression. Treatments range from 3-5 times per week, making complete decompression possible in just 8-10 weeks.

Candidates for Spinal Decompression Therapy

Many conditions can benefit from spinal decompression. The procedure is excellent for patients suffering from herniated and bulging disks, but works well on almost any condition that compresses the spine or discs including:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Bone Spurs and Arthritic Conditions
  • Facet Syndrome
  • Some forms of Spinal Stenosis
  • Sciatica
  • Partially Ruptured Discs
  • Neck Pain
  • Pinched Nerve Pain
  • Lower Back Pain

Patients with these conditions often report the symptoms being at their worse in the morning and a little better as the day goes on and bad again at night or they have constant pain. Pain is often brought on by long periods of standing, sitting, driving or transitioning from sitting to standing. Healthcare providers use MRIs to identify suitable candidates for the therapy.

What To Expect Afterwards

After each treatment, patients are instructed to drink plenty of water, ice the area, and use a Disc Distraction Brace to help take pressure off the compressed discs and take supplements to replenish lost nutrients. Core-strengthening exercises are prescribed to help prevent recurrence.

Many patients wonder if they will have a re-lapse, or if the herniation could reoccur. That is unlikely to happen without a new trauma to the disc. Once the gelatinous material is back inside the disc, it stays there unless it gets pushed out again by a trauma or pressure. The Core-strengthening exercises are integral to help prevent reoccurrence. Studies have shown an 86% success rate with Spinal Decompression Therapy.

Contact your chiropractor to learn more about Spinal Decompression Therapy, and to find out whether you are a good candidate for this non-invasive surgery alternative.