What Is Spinal Decompression Therapy And Is It Right For You

Do you have back pain that doesn’t seem to go away? Read here to learn what spinal decompression therapy is and if it’s right for you.

The single leading cause of disability around the world is back pain.

Regardless of severity, treatment options include therapy, medication, and surgery. These solutions aren’t as simple as they seem, though.

Relying on medication for pain has led to an opioid epidemic. 130 people die every day from opioid abuse, indicating that we should look towards other options for treatment first.

Surgery then becomes a complicated alternative, as post-operation often involves pain killers. With a 40% failure rate for back surgery, this seems like a risk many wouldn’t want to take.

This leaves us with therapy. Perhaps decompression therapy may lead the way for a healthier world.

Here’s everything you need to know about spinal decompression therapy so you can decide if it’s right for you.

The Spine

To understand the treatment of back issues, you should first understand the spine.

It comprises of 33 individual bones, called vertebrae. Between many of these bones are elastic, fibrous cartilage called discs.

The 23 intervertebral discs in the spine serve as a buffer between vertebrae. They promote movement and allow nerves to send signals throughout our bodies.

Discs compress when pressure is on our spine, releasing fluid and becoming smaller. After pressure relieves, the discs decompress, reabsorbing fluid and becoming thicker again. Essentially, this is how we can move our spine in any way without feeling the pain of bones and nerves grinding on each other.

As we accumulate more wear and tear on our back, these discs wear out, become damaged, or move out of place. This can happen at any age, gradually, or suddenly due to trauma.

No matter how it happens, damaged vertebrae and discs lead to similar feelings: pain, numbness, and loss of function.

One solution to this that avoids surgery and medication is spinal decompression therapy.

Spinal Decompression Therapy

Technically, there are non-surgical and surgical spinal decompression treatments.

Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression

Spinal decompression therapy involves carefully stretching the spine. This gentle stretching creates a slight pressure, allowing discs to re-adjust and retract.

The therapy takes place over a course of 5-7 weeks, as it’s a non-aggressive tactic to alleviating back pain. Through gradual treatment, the patient’s spine begins to re-align.

When discs start going back into place, they stop pressing against nerves. Thus, pain lessens. In the newfound space where the disc was, oxygen, nutrients, and water flush in to give the body the materials it needs to repair itself.

The therapy involves the patient wearing a harness around the pelvis and laying on a mechanical table. They shouldn’t feel any pain throughout the 30- to 45-minute treatment as their spine gets lightly stretched.

Some doctors choose to pair decompression therapy with cold therapy, electrical stimulation, heat therapy, or ultrasound to enhance treatment.

Surgical Spinal Decompression

Although this isn’t a therapy, these treatments are often lumped in with non-surgical spinal decompression therapy in research and discussions.

This may be due to the fact that both are aiming to alleviate back pain through doctor intervention.

The surgical route includes some of the following fusions and -ectomies.

Spinal fusion is when a doctor combines multiple vertebrae together using a bone graft. Recovery includes immobilization of the back with a brace.

-Ectomies are the medical way of saying removal. To fix back problems, a doctor may perform the following -ectomies.

  • Corpectomy: removal of entire parts of involved vertebrae and the associated discs
  • Diskectomy: removal of part of a damaged disc
  • Laminectomy: removal of the back part of certain vertebrae to increase space in the spinal canal
  • Osteophyte removal: removal of bony growths (i.e. bone spurs)

Complications for each of these surgeries include allergic reactions, bleeding, blood clots, infection, and nerve damage. Plus, the surgery isn’t guaranteed to fix the initial back problem.

How do you know if you should opt for non-surgical spinal decompression or opt for surgery? Aside from your doctor’s recommendations, here’s information to guide your decision.

When Spinal Decompression Therapy May Be Right For You

It might be easiest to start with when it isn’t right for you.

If you have a fracture, tumor, or metal implants in your spine, this option isn’t for you. Additionally, if you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm or advanced osteoporosis, you should consider other treatment options besides spinal decompression therapy.

If these examples don’t match your case, decompression therapy might be your saving grace. Here we’ll dive into examples of ailments spinal decompression therapy may treat.

Degenerative Disc Disease

This disease is due to the deterioration of one or more discs, leading to pain, numbness, and discomfort.

Decompression therapy may alleviate pain by allowing your discs to shift from pressing against your nerves. While degenerative disc disease isn’t actually a “disease,” it can be debilitating.

When your discs deteriorate, your body might try to correct the issue by growing extra bone along the vertebrae. These are bone spurs, and they may interfere with nerves.

A doctor can remove bone spurs through osteophyte removal surgery, but either way decompression therapy may help shift everything back into place to alleviate pain.

Facet Syndrome

This syndrome occurs from trauma, incorrect postures, and disc degeneration. Thus, it’s somewhat tied to degenerative disc disease.

Similarly, spinal decompression therapy can alleviate the pain experienced with this syndrome.

Herniated Discs

Also called bulged, slipped, or ruptured discs, herniated discs lead to severe nerve pain.

The inner layer of disc tears through the outer layer of a disc, resulting in it protruding into the nerve column. Basically, parts of the disc aren’t where they need to be, resulting in pressure on nerves that results in pain.

Luckily, medical professionals like the Inner Balance Institute state that spinal decompression therapy is 86 to 91% effective in healing herniated discs, amongst other back problems.

An Assortment of Other Back Issues

Spinal decompression therapy, due to its ability to slowly and gently rearrange the components of the spine, help with a variety of issues related to cartilage and bone location causing pain.

This includes stenosis, sciatica, and general back leg, neck, and arm pain linked to back problems. Additionally, this therapy is an option for those who have experienced failed spinal surgery or who haven’t experienced improvement from non-operative treatments.

Keep Researching And Consider Therapy Over Surgery

Again, we’re not shooting down surgery as it is necessary for many patients.

However, it’s important to consider alternative treatment, such as spinal decompression therapy, after researching and understanding it. Having a wide understanding of options helps patients and medical professionals alike choose the best treatment based on current research.

Keep reading our blog to learn the latest medical trends to grow your knowledge and improve health.