Who Is a Candidate for Spinal Decompression Therapy?
It is essential to first obtain an accurate diagnosis regarding your condition, since there are several structures of the spine that may be responsible for causing pain. It is worth noting that patients may have similar symptoms but different diagnoses and therefore should be treated differently. People suffering from bulging or herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, facet syndrome, stenosis, or those that have had a failed back surgery without hardware are all eligible candidates for non-surgical spinal decompression therapy.
We can’t diagnose anyone online, but we would recommend an in-office consultation if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Sciatica (shooting leg pain)
- Chronic back pain with or without buttocks and leg pain.
- Chronic neck pain with or without arm pain.
- Degenerative disc disease
- Bulging discs
- Herniated discs
- We also recommend a consultation to those who can’t find pain relief
- After back surgery that may have offered short term relief, or no relief at all.
Spinal Decompression primarily targets Intervertebral Discs, these Discs are the soft tissues located between the individual vertebrae that make up the spine. Their purpose is to provide cushioning and flexibility along the entire length of the spine. When healthy, discs are pliable and resilient and aid in proper spinal function and support. However, when a spinal disc undergoes any type of physical trauma or degeneration, herniation is likely to occur. Discs are filled with a gel-like substance that provides spinal shock absorption. When a disc is damaged or ruptured, this fluid will either leak or dry up, causing the disc to shrink in size or alter its natural positioning, thus leaving the spine at risk for serious injury and damage, which can become permanent if damaged disc structures are not promptly repaired.
When a disc becomes herniated, it may tear or slip and decrease the necessary space between vertebrae. This can lead to numerous problems, such as painful friction, pinched nerves, nerve damage, spinal imbalances, as well as deteriorated posture, all of which may cause repercussions in other areas of the body, manifesting in pain or health problems. The spine is the body’s central control system, which means all of the body’s organs are connected to it. Any issues within the spine have the potential to spread to other body parts and cause additional difficulties.
Herniated discs are a preventable and treatable condition. Spinal decompression is just one of the many healing modalities that can help them heal.
People with any of these conditions should also not have nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy:
- Acute Disc Annular Tears
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Advanced osteoporosis
- Metal implants in the spine
- Spinal infection
- Spinal tumor
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Any condition that may compromise the integrity of the spine
- Any condition requiring the patient to take blood thinner medication
Is an MRI necessary?
During your initial consultation we will determine together if an MRI is necessary–they aren’t always necessary. We evaluate the need of them on a case by case basis. If you’ve already had an MRI, bring copies of the report with you to your first appointment. Many spinal conditions cannot be diagnosed from x-ray and MRI provides the most comprehensive diagnosis of spinal conditions. It’s also worth noting that many patients have normal MRI’s and still gain benefit from non surgical spinal decompression because their spinal condition (ie disc bulge) only will present itself in certain positions (ie sitting). MRI are taken in a supine (lying down face up) position which sometimes does not illustrate the patients’ condition accurately. Due to the safety of spinal decompression a lot patients opt for a trial of treatments to see if it will be successful before opting for imaging like MRI’s.
Also a lot of times Spinal decompression can be diagnostic, meaning that by patients relief or discomfort we can narrow our diagnosis of a patients’ condition in a way that even the best imaging can’t do. To give you an example a lot of patients chronic elbow pain (thought to be tennis elbow) is relieved when patients are in cervical neck traction because the root cause of the elbow is related to compression of the C5-C6, C6-C7 exiting nerve roots. The same is also true with a lot patients diagnosed with “piriformis syndrome” which is really caused by nerve irritation/nerve abutment at L4-L5, L5-S1.
What to Expect from Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy
In terms of time, you should plan for about 25-30 minutes for your session. The therapy itself is safe, painless and relaxing. You will be fitted with a treatment harness before you begin. This harness will ensure correct placement of your neck and back. Once you are comfortable, our spinal decompression machine will gently lengthen your spine as you lie comfortably on your back, relieving accumulated pressure from your spine and discs. You are in charge of the sensations you feel during therapy. If at anytime you felt uncomfortable, you can stop the treatment by using a patient safety switch.
For the low back, the patient lies comfortably on his/her back or stomach on the decompression table, with a set of nicely padded straps snug around the waist and another set around the lower chest. For the neck, the patient lies comfortably on his/her back with a pair of soft rubber pads behind the neck. Many patients enjoy the treatment, as it is usually quite comfortable and well tolerated. Some patients even fall asleep.
The decompression table has a computer which regulates force and angle of distraction, the spine is lengthened and decompressed, creating a “vacuum effect” to lower intra-discal pressure which in turn reduces and reabsorbs bulging discs. The vacuum effect created by the spinal decompression machine reduces the intra-discal pressure to approximately -160mmHG. This negative pressure repositions and draws in the jelly-like fluid of the disc (called the nucleus pulposus). Because the discs, like other cartilage in your body, do not have a direct blood supply, they rely on movement to receive their nourishment by a process called imbibition. This is attained by the vacuum effect of spinal decompression, thereby drawing moisture, nutrients, and oxygen back into the discs.
The negative pressure may induce the retraction of the herniated or bulging disc into the inside of the disc, and off the nerve root, thecal sac, or both. It happens only microscopically each time, but over cumulative treatments the results are quite dramatic.
The cycles of decompression and partial relaxation, over a series of visits, promote the diffusion of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids from the outside of the discs to the inside. These nutrients enable the torn and degenerated disc fibers to begin to heal.
Muscle Spasm surrounding the area is reduced due to removal of pressure on pain sensitive nerves and movement and function of the area is increased providing pain free mobility.
Sessions are typically less than 20 minutes and many individuals benefit greatly with as few as 6-12 treatments. Decompression Traction System protocols have provided relief for many low back or neck conditions such as herniated discs, bulging discs, facet syndromes, spinal stenosis and symptoms from degenerative joint disease and pinched nerves.
Is non-surgical spinal decompression therapy safe?
Yes. The technology is produced by a FDA approved; computer-controlled device using forces that are usually about 50%-65% of the patient’s body weight, and therefore well within safe limits. Most patients feel very little except for a gentle stretch on the spine.
Is it painful? No. The forces used to gently stretch the spine are set within the patient’s pain tolerance and constantly adapt during the therapy session. The spine relaxes with each successive cycle and tissues become more pliable.
The force used is to unload the targeted spinal disc of weight above that spinal segment. For example 75-80lbs is a common decompressive weight used for the lumbar spinal which in a lot of patients removes the upper body weight on the disc allowing it to be “uncompressed” and absorb water and nutrients.
Cadaver studies have shown it is nearly impossible to tear discs with decompressive loads but pre-existing conditions like annular tears can be painful and aggravated by spinal decompression. To identify this without MRI’s we “pre-screen “patients with flexion-distraction testing to see patient tolerance and note any pain with distraction of the spine. A vast majority of patient’s find distraction of the spine very comfortable, pain relieving and therapeutic. This makes sense since most of us sit all day long gravity is always exerting a compressive force on the spine.
What is the success rate of spinal decompression therapy?
We feel the success rate is somewhere around 85-90% based on 15 years of clinical use of getting patients at least a reduction of 50% of pain. But we always encourage patients to combine decompression with other forms of treatment (Acupuncture, chiropractic, detoxification, flexion-distraction and food avoidance) to improve the outcomes even more. We believe in a holistic model of care and Spinal Decompression is just one of the many tools we use to correct spinal conditions. Studies have been done though to show the success of spinal decompression on its own;
In 1998, a study was done showing a success rate of 73% (Gose. et. al.: Vertebral Axial Decompression. Neurological Research, 1998).
In 2003, another study came out with a success rate of 86% (Thomas A: Spinal Decompression. Orthopedic Technology Review, 2003).
And in 2005, a third study showed a success rate of 90%. (Wooridul Neurosurgery Clinic, 2005).
It’s my opinion that anyone who has acute or chronic lumbar spine pain, sciatica, hip pain that has not resolved with exercises, anti-inflammatories, and passive therapies consider trying Spinal decompression. It’s safety and effectiveness greatly exceed most medications and surgical procedures. Obviously no treatment is 100% effective, but in my career Spinal Decompression has been one of the most impressive and sought after treatments in my office. Schedule online above if you would like to start treatment or call (480) 991-5555 if you would like to schedule a consultation to see if Spinal Decompression could help you. AZMulticare provides spinal decompression Scottsdale and Phoenix AZ.