ROLE OF SPINAL DECOMPRESSION THERAPY
Every year, thousands of Americans visit providers for back pain treatment. While some of them experience short-term symptoms, about twenty percent of them will experience chronic pain. Studies show that around forty percent of adults live with some level of chronic back or neck pain. Common diagnoses that cause chronic pain include disc problems, arthritis, sciatica, and whiplash injuries. It’s also possible to have idiopathic chronic back pain, meaning the cause is unknown.
Chronic or recurring back pain is associated with a number of risks, including addiction to pain medications, poorer mental health, and lower lifetime income. Surgery often seems like the only solution, but it only succeeds about fifty percent of the time. The news for back pain sufferers isn’t all gloomy, though. There are non-invasive treatments that are proven to relieve back pain more effectively than surgery or medication. One of these is spinal decompression therapy.
If you suffer from chronic back pain, you owe it to yourself to explore your options. Here’s everything you need to know about receiving spinal decompression therapy at an integrated medical clinic.
What Is Spinal Decompression Therapy and How does it Work?
Spinal decompression therapy is a form of traction that uses a computerized table instead of slings and pulleys. The computer can work in small increments that are impossible to achieve with manual traction. Spinal decompression aims to gently stretch the spine to create negative pressure between vertebrae. This acts as a vacuum to draw blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to the area.
The spine is made up of vertebrae with discs in between them to act as shock absorbers. Nerve roots branch out from your spinal cord through openings near the disc space. Over time, wear and gravity conspire to flatten your discs and reduce the space between vertebrae. This results in more pressure on nerves. Degenerating discs happen to everyone as they age, but for some, they cause chronic debilitating pain. Spinal decompression therapy can partially rehydrate discs, reducing pressure on nerves.
Other disc-related problems can also cause nerve pain. When a disc slips out of place and bulges between vertebrae, it may pinch a nerve. Herniated discs leak highly irritating fluid that causes inflammation. The inflammation may put pressure on nerves in addition to causing tissue-related pain. Since the disc area and facet joints receive poor blood flow, the body struggles to heal damage in these areas. Low-level inflammation and nerve root irritation can cause chronic pain that doesn’t appear on imaging.
By encouraging blood flow, spinal decompression therapy aids healing. It realigns out-of-place discs and assists the body in cleaning up leaking disc fluid. Decompression changes the physiology of the disc space, calming nerves and relieving pain. It also brings more circulation to facet joints and relieves inflammation associated with arthritis.
What Should I Expect During Treatment?
Spinal decompression therapy is safe and comfortable. During treatment, you’ll be secured to a computer-controlled table that’s designed to separate, gently stretching your spine. Your provider will program the computer with a personalized treatment. Most patients experience pain relief during treatment as it relieves pressure on nerves. Patients with extremely painful disc injuries may experience some discomfort, but it should never be worse than the pain of your injury.
After treatment, mild muscle soreness is possible. This usually only happens after the first few sessions, as muscles adjust to moving differently, similar to when you begin a new workout routine.
How Long Does it Take to Work?
A decompression therapy treatment plan typically calls for twelve to thirty sessions over four to six weeks. Your injury and response to treatment determine how many sessions you need. Most patients begin to feel relief after their first week of treatment and continue to make progress every week after that. Studies show that over eighty percent of chronic back pain sufferers experience significant long-term relief after completing their spinal decompression therapy treatment plan.
Are Failed Back Surgery Patients Candidates for Spinal Decompression Therapy?
Many patients who’ve experienced a failed back surgery find relief with decompression therapy. If your back surgery was at least six months ago and you didn’t have a fusion or metal implants, you may be a candidate.
Surgeons can only treat conditions they can see. Often, back surgery fails because it was based on an incorrect diagnosis. Spinal decompression therapy treats problems like inflammation and nerve sensitivity that can be difficult to diagnose.
What Kind of Clinics Offer Spinal Decompression Therapy?
Many chiropractors and osteopaths offer spinal decompression therapy. It is used to treat acute disc-related injuries as well as chronic pain. In many clinics, a patient’s treatment ends when they complete their decompression therapy regimen. While spinal decompression therapy is an effective treatment that works for many patients who’ve tried “everything,” it may not be the only treatment you require.
At Vanguard Spine and Sport, we offer spinal decompression therapy at our integrated pain management clinics. Our chiropractors work alongside nurses and physical therapists to design a comprehensive treatment plan for patients with chronic back pain.
Spinal decompression therapy may be the primary treatment you need to relieve your pain, but it’s essential to look at why you experienced chronic pain in the first place. Physical therapy can address muscle weakness and body mechanics issues that contribute to pain and make you more vulnerable to injury. Chronic pain is a complex condition that requires a multifaceted approach.
At Vanguard, we also work with patients to prevent chronic pain. When a patient comes in with a disc injury, treating them promptly with spinal decompression therapy can speed healing and prevent lingering discomfort. It’s then important to address any vulnerabilities that could cause them to become re-injured. Clinics that don’t provide well-rounded treatment may be less successful in helping patients prevent future injuries.
Spinal Decompression Therapy in Houston
Vanguard Spine and Sport has two pain management clinic locations to serve your needs in the Houston area. Schedule a consultation today to learn how comprehensive integrated care can improve your quality of life.