Treating Back Pain With Spinal Decompression

Around 31 million Americans suffer from pain in their lower back, while around 80 percent of adults claim to suffer back pain at some point in their lifetime. It is the leading contributor to missed days at the workplace. Unfortunately, the relief gained from traditional back pain treatment is usually temporary. Treating the pain itself and not the cause, will only help so much, which is why many individuals turn to spinal decompression therapy to improve the quality of their life. Spinal decompression therapy is a non-surgical method. In this guide, find out more about spinal decompression and whether you are the ideal candidate for the therapy.

What is Spinal Decompression?

Spinal decompression therapy gently stretches the spine – forcing it to change its position. This positional change takes the pressure off the spinal disks and creates a negative intradiscal pressure to promote the repositioning of the herniated or bulging disc material. Ultimately, this will promote movement of water, oxygen, and other nutrient-rich fluids into the disks to enhance function and healing. 

There is also a surgical spinal decompression (Laminectomy or Microdiscectomy for example), but in this article, we concentrate on the non-surgical version.

The techniques used in Spinal Decompression are not new; they have a proven track record. Chiropractors and osteopaths have been using these same basic principles for many years.

Spinal Decompression therapy
Decompression therapy may be an ideal choice for you if you are suffering from backache as a result of bulging or herniated disc. However, only a chiropractor or other healthcare practitioner who holds expertise in decompression techniques can make an accurate diagnosis before having the therapy (after assessing the patient). Your doctor may also advise against spinal decompression therapy if you are suffering from the following conditions:
  • Pregnancy
  • Spinal surgeries
  • Broken vertebrae
  • Osteoporosis
  • Metastasized cancer
  • Spinal tumor
  • Those who have artificial implants in their spine

How is the procedure carried out?

As we mentioned above, spinal decompression therapy is a non-surgical procedure. During the treatment, the patient is positioned face down or face up on a computer-controlled table. The patient will be strapped onto the table using a pelvic harness while the doctor in charge will monitor the computer, according to the patient’s requirements. 

Each session on the spinal decompression table lasts approximately 30 minutes while on an average, the patient will be required to have at least 12 sessions over a five to seven week period. The accurate timetable for each patient will be dependent on his or her unique situation, and the doctor will create a timeline during the initial consultation.

The results of any medical treatment, including spinal decompression therapy, differ from patient to patient. The results are reliant on the patient’s unique situation as well as the protocol used by the doctor to ease the symptoms. In most cases, patients should not expect significant change after the first treatment; Results become more much more apparent towards the end of the treatment protocol.

Researching spinal decompression therapy

Several different types of research to illustrate the benefits of decompression therapy are underway while many have shown immense benefits. This procedure is called nonsurgical decompression therapy (as opposed to surgical spinal decompression.

Clinical Evidence

Clinical Evidence for Spinal Therapy

While the benefits of spinal decompression are widely accepted among medical professionals, there is still a lack of detailed medical studies using many patients and placebo testing. Tests are ongoing, however. 

For example, a study dating back to 1998 shows that 71% of patients getting spinal decompression therapy reported a substantial decrease in the intensity of their pain.

Another study found that patients suffering from prolonged back pain claimed to experience a significant difference in around eight weeks of the treatment. Here, it should also be noted that 80% of the participants were suffering from back pain for more than six months. They also admitted using at least two other modes of treatment before choosing spinal decompression therapy.

In another research, around 86% of patients that received the same spinal treatment said that they did not feel pain from their herniated disks even after two years of treatment.

Are there any risks of spinal decompression?

Spinal decompression is a non-surgical and non-drug based procedure. This means that it is extremely safe with minimal chances of hurting the patient. 

During the treatment, however, many patients find it uncomfortable lying in the same position for around 30 minutes. The chiropractor or the technician will try to make the patient relax as much as possible, but due to the back pain, the posture may be painful, though it is not the procedure itself that causes discomfort.

However, most patients don’t feel any pressure during the actual treatment procedure. Hence, the treatment itself is pain-free, and most patients are free to carry on non-strenuous daily activities right after the procedure is completed.

What about surgical spinal decompression therapy?

Surgical spinal decompression protocol is usually the last resort of doctors to relieve the patient from back pain. 

Through this method, the doctors are usually able to relive the pressure on the spine using different surgical procedures.
Unfortunately, surgeries come with risks including infection, allergic reaction to anesthesia, nerve or tissue damage, bleeding, and blood clots. Surgery also does not necessarily guarantee relief from the problem completely, and there is a high probability that the symptoms will return even after the surgery is performed.
This is why we are only discussing non-surgical spinal decompression.

Should you choose spinal decompression therapy?

More research regarding the effectiveness of spinal decompression therapy is required. However, the limited research so far does show that the treatment is beneficial for those suffering from bulging discs, herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, accident victims, and even sciatica. 

Nevertheless, the decision to get the procedure done is solely dependent on your specific situation and your doctor’s recommendation. In fact, it is critical that patients who consider the therapy consult his or her medical history thoroughly with their medical practitioner before opting for the method.

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