Millions of Americans live with debilitating back pain. It may be from an injury that never fully healed, or a failed surgery. Injuries to spinal structures like discs, facet joints, and nerve roots can be difficult to diagnose, and they are often treated with drugs and surgeries that don’t fix the underlying problem. Most frustratingly, some patients are told that their pain has continued even though any injury has healed. While it is true that nerve pain can continue after an injury heals, it’s also common for patients to be misdiagnosed. Just because an irritated nerve root isn’t easy to see on an MRI doesn’t mean it’s not there. Patients with conditions like a far lateral disc frequently go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Spinal decompression therapy is a non-invasive treatment that can treat large sections of the spine simultaneously. This means you don’t have to know exactly which spine section is responsible for your pain. Since it increases circulation, realigns out-of-place discs, and encourages healing to the whole area, people with “mystery pain” often find relief.
Here are five things every back pain patient should know about spinal decompression therapy.
1. How Does Does Spinal Decompression Therapy Work?
Spinal decompression therapy is a type of traction that uses a computerized table instead of pulleys and manual manipulation. It’s more effective than manual traction, and it’s the only type of traction proven to create negative pressure within the spine.
During a decompression therapy session, the patient is comfortably secured to a table that will slowly separate, gently stretching the spine. The provider tells the computer what movements to make based on the patient’s condition. Each session is personalized to the patient’s needs.
As the spine stretches, pressure is taken off nerves, and a vacuum forms in the space around the disc. This negative pressure brings blood flow and nutrients to the area, reduces inflammation, and rehydrates the disc. Repeated sessions move discs back into place and desensitize overactive nerves.
Typically, a patient will come in for a three or four sessions a week for several weeks and then taper down to fewer sessions. Most patients notice a significant difference in pain after their first week or two of treatment. Best of all, spinal decompression is safe, and the only common side effect is mild muscle soreness that goes away after the first few treatments. Unlike oral medications, spinal decompression treats the root of the problem and helps your body heal.
2. What Conditions Does it Treat?
Spinal decompression is the best non-invasive treatment for injuries and conditions affecting spinal discs, nerve roots, and facet joints. Some of the conditions it can treat include:
Intervertebral joint dysfunction
Lumbar facet syndrome
Before recommending a treatment plan, your provider will conduct a thorough exam, including imaging. Some conditions like arthritis cannot be reversed or completely cured, but spinal decompression therapy can make symptoms more manageable.
3. Spinal Decompression Prevents and Treats Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can result from an injury to a spinal structure that is never properly diagnosed or treated. In these cases, getting the right treatment can help the body heal and completely relieve pain. When patients are promptly treated with spinal decompression therapy, it greatly improves their chances of healing completely from their acute injury so that it doesn’t turn into chronic pain.
In cases where chronic pain is caused by degenerative conditions like arthritis or flattened discs, spinal decompression can relieve pain and stiffness and improve quality of life. It does this by lowering inflammation, rehydrating discs, and improving circulation to low circulation areas within joints and the disc space. In these cases, some healing and inflammation mitigation is better than none. Even though these conditions can’t be cured, pain, stiffness, and range of motion can significantly improve with treatment.
4. Spinal Decompression Can Treat Failed Back Surgeries
If you’ve had a failed back surgery (defined as pain that continues for more than six months after the surgery), spinal decompression therapy can help. It’s not appropriate for all back surgery patients, such as those with hardware implants or spinal fusions, but most other back surgery patients are good candidates for treatment.
Back surgeries can fail for several reasons. Sometimes the operation is done on the wrong section of the spine. Other times the surgeon creates too much or too little space around nerve roots. In some cases, the spinal problem that was operated on turns out not to be the problem that was responsible for most of the patient’s pain. For instance, if a patient has several problems in different parts of their spine, the doctor may target the one nearest the painful area without achieving the desired results.
Regardless of why your back surgery failed, spinal decompression can help you find relief. Many patients that try spinal decompression therapy do it as a last attempt after every other treatment, including surgery, has failed. Most are shocked to find that they are finally experiencing pain relief. As a holistic treatment that can be used on the whole spine, decompression therapy can treat problems that surgeons can’t see. Decompression can also aid healing if your lingering pain is from the surgery itself.
5. The Results of Decompression Therapy are Long Lasting
Studies indicate that results of spinal decompression therapy last for years, even in patients with chronic conditions. Some patients with degenerative conditions choose to come in for “booster” sessions once a month or a few times a year. Other patients simply follow through with their initial treatment plan. In both cases, patients report considerably less pain after completing their initial treatment regimen. This remains true even several years later.
Spinal Decompression Therapy in Houston
At Vanguard Spine and Sport, we provide comprehensive treatment for people dealing with back and neck pain. Spinal decompression therapy has been effective for our patients living with chronic pain and acute injury. Schedule a consultation today to find out if spinal decompression therapy is right for you.