Spinal decompression has proven to be highly effective in the vast majority of cases in not only reducing (and often eliminating) symptoms, but actually correcting disc bulging, reducing disc herniations, relieving sciatica, significantly improving stenosis problems, and improving disc health. Spinal decompression can be used both on back and neck problems. Lots of big words, but if you have the problem you know what they mean.
How Does Spinal Decompression Work?
Spinal decompression is a “high-tech” version of spinal traction. Spinal traction has been used for many years in the treatment of back and neck pain, but its results always fell short when it came to the treatment of spinal disc herniations and degeneration. Why? Well, when you start to pull on the spine with regular traction, the muscles begin to contract and resist the treatment.
Because of this, there are two problems in treating disc-related pain with regular traction:
First, because the muscles are contracting as the traction pulls, this often irritates and can even damage already sensitive muscles, producing even greater pain!
Second, because of the strong contraction of the muscles, it is much more difficult to produce separation of the spinal bones, and to reduce the pressure in the discs enough to make any significant changes in the amount of disc bulging.
Spinal Decompression Is A Type of Traction, BUT Different From Regular Traction!
Decompression treatments use computer-controlled motors to modulate the traction pull in such a way that it does not provoke significant muscle contraction around the spinal area treated. Because there is little to no muscle resistance to the treatment, spinal decompression is much more comfortable and has a much greater positive effect on the spinal discs than regular traction.
Spinal Decompression Produces Negative Pressure (Suction) Inside The Disc!
Experiments on regular traction showed that although traction does decrease the pressure inside the disc and may provide benefits in terms of muscle stretching and joint mobilization, it does not produce enough decompressive effect in the discs to significantly reduce disc bulging.
In contrast, spinal decompression treatments can produce strong negative pressure, or suction as you probably know it, inside the discs. This allows the bulging disc material to be pulled back towards the center of the disc. In effect, it’s almost like someone stuck a drinking straw into the center of the disc and sucked the disc bulge back in.
The other benefit of the suction force produced by decompression is that fluid and nutrients are drawn back into the disc, to promote disc healing and regeneration. In the case of degenerated discs, this increase in fluid can help restore disc height and reduce pressure on arthritic spinal joint surfaces.
With time and repeated treatments, the disc wall gradually heals and stabilizes to be able to keep the bulging material contained, resulting in long-term correction.
How Spinal Decompression Works on Disc Problems
Imagine your low back as six blocks stacked on top of each other. In between each block is a disc. Discs are sort of like a jelly donuts.
The outside of the disc is made up of tough fibers call the annulus fibrosis and the inside, the jellylike substance, called the nucleus pulposus.
When disc tear they weaken the wall. This allows a bulge to develop. With time, you develop disc degeneration.
If the disc wall weakens, further you may develop a herniated disc. There are two types of herniated discs. In a prolapsed disc, the jelly like substance protrudes and seriously deforms the disc wall. In an extrusion, the jelly like substance breaks through the disc wall.
In the case of a herniated disc (prolapsed or extruded), the jelly like substance “pinches” the nerve. This pinch can cause pain, tingling, and numbness to travel down your leg to your toes. This is called sciatica.
The picture to the right is a pre-treatment MRI of a fifth lumbar herniated disc of a 50 year old man with a two-month history of low back pain and sciatica. Note the bulging herniated disc in the blue circle.
The picture below is the same patient after non-surgical spinal decompression treatment. Notice that the herniation in the blue circle has been “sucked back in to the disc”, thus eliminating the back pain and sciatica.
Studies show that spinal decompression creates a negative pressure inside the disc and “sucks” the herniation back into the disc.
According to a published study in the American Journal of Pain Management, spinal decompression provided good to excellent results for 86% of patients with herniated or ruptured discs and 75% of patients with facet arthritis.
What Does a Spinal Decompression Treatment Feel Like?
Depending on your problem, you may be laying on your back, belly, or side. A Velcro wrap stabilizes your back and pelvis and a mild distractive force is applied through the pelvis wrap.
The split table design allows the decompressive force to cause a separation of the vertebra. This separation is what causes the negative pressure inside the disc causing the herniated nucleus pulposus, the jelly like substance, to be “sucked” back into the disc.
Patients describe the treatment as a gentle and painless pulling. Some patients actually fall asleep.
But Why Would You Even Consider Surgery When…
Clinical studies show nonsurgical spinal decompression, a spinal unloading procedure combining distraction and positioning to be successful (good or excellent relief) in 86% of patients with a herniated disc and degenerative joint disease – without the side effects.
Another study showed a 90% reduction in disc herniations in 71.4% of the patients. Some forms of spinal stenosis and arthritis also responded well.
Are You A Candidate For Spinal Decompression Therapy?
Although most patients with disc-related pain get excellent results with our treatment program, not every patient is a suitable candidate for spinal decompression. There are rare situations in which spinal decompression is contraindicated and/or reasons why we might choose to not accept a patient into our office’s spinal decompression program.
Spinal decompression is not a magic wand and there are no 100% cures. If you, a family member, or friend would like to find out more about back or neck problems and spinal decompression, we have an offer for a $7.00 screening. The screening helps us determine if you are a candidate for decompression.