spine xray

Chronic back pain can have a negative impact on your quality of life and ability to work. If you’ve been struggling with chronic pain and unable to find relief, spinal decompression therapy might be the answer. Here is everything you need to know about this innovative treatment:

How Does Spinal Decompression Therapy Work?

Your spine is made up of small bones called vertebrae. Between each vertebra, there are cushy, fluid-filled structures called discs. Discs are often the source of chronic back pain. Normal wear and tear over time can cause the discs to flatten and harden. Some people don’t experience pain associated with this, but others develop a painful condition called degenerative disc disease. Injury can also cause disc problems. Discs can be shifted, so they bulge out between vertebrae or even rupture. Ruptured discs, sometimes called herniated discs, can be extremely painful. 

Spinal decompression works by creating negative pressure between vertebrae. This acts like a vacuum to suck discs back into proper alignment. It also stimulates blood flow and helps to bring healing nutrients and oxygen to the area. The process also relieves pressure from nerves. Many patients experience immediate pain relief during the procedure and lasting pain relief after several sessions. Spinal decompression therapy helps the injury—the underlying cause of the pain– to heal. 

Is Spinal Decompression Therapy a Type of Surgery?

In your internet searches, you may have seen other terms, such as “surgical spinal decompression.” This is different from spinal decompression therapy. The latter is sometimes called “non-surgical spinal decompression.” Other terms that sometimes come up are “disc decompression” and “back decompression.” These terms can refer to spinal decompression therapy. 

Spinal decompression therapy is non-invasive, non-surgical, and pain-free. We’ll go into more detail about the experience of the procedure below. 

What Happens During Decompression Therapy?

The experience of spinal decompression is similar to traction, and sometimes it is referred to as “motorized traction.” It is important to note that despite these similarities, spinal decompression is different from traction. Both therapies have the same goal of relieving pressure on nerves and discs in the spine, but the methods used to accomplish this are different. Traction can refer to a manual adjustment process where the provider tries to create more space between the patient’s vertebrae by adjusting them with his hands. This procedure should not be confused with a chiropractic adjustment—the latter aims to fix vertebrae that are out of alignment, not decompress the spine. 

Traction can also be performed by lying the patient on a table and using ropes, slings, and pulleys to gently stretch the body and relieve pressure within the spine. The primary difference between this procedure and spinal decompression therapy is the technology involved. 

During spinal decompression therapy, the patient is secured to a table that is operated using a computer. The table has two movable parts that slowly move apart to stretch the patient’s spine. It is easier to get a precise amount of decompression using this system. With traction, a lot depends on the person performing the procedure. The technology used in spinal decompression therapy provides more consistent results. It is also the only treatment that has been clinically proven to create negative pressures within the spine. Best of all, it can be tailored to the individual patient’s needs. 

Can Decompression Therapy Cause Damage or Have Side Effects?

Spinal decompression therapy has a solid track record of safety and effectiveness. Like any procedure, it is not appropriate for everyone. Your chiropractor will review your medical history with you. You should let them know about any serious health problems, past surgeries, etc. Pregnant women should not have spinal decompression. 

Most people can receive the treatment safely. Minor side effects, such as mild soreness or muscle spasm, can occur. This is because your muscles are being stretched in a way they are not used to, similar to when you begin a new workout routine. Let your chiropractor know if you have these side effects, and he will recommend the best home treatment, usually cold or heat therapy. 

Side effects are most common after the first few sessions as the body adjusts to the procedure. If you feel pain at any time during the procedure, you can push the stop button or alert your provider. The therapy will always be tailored to your needs and designed to keep you comfortable.

What Conditions Can it Treat?

Spinal decompression therapy can be used to treat pain in any area of the spine caused by disc bulging, herniation, or degeneration. It can also treat stenosis, sciatica, facet syndrome, and problems with spinal nerves. Your chiropractor will need to take x-rays and perform an exam to see what is causing your pain and determine if decompression therapy is appropriate for you. Most patients experience lasting pain relief after several treatments. 

Your chiropractor might recommend combining your decompression therapy with other treatments like chiropractic adjustments or injections.

Can I Have Decompression Therapy After Surgery?

Some patients who have experienced a failed back surgery may be candidates for spinal decompression therapy. If you have hardware implants or a fusion, you cannot receive decompression therapy. Otherwise, you may be a candidate if it has been at least six months since the surgery. You should discuss this with your chiropractor, who will evaluate your individual needs and medical history. 

How Long Does it Take to Work?

The best way to know how long you’ll have to continue the therapy is to talk to your local chiropractor about your individual needs. Our Houston chiropractors have years of experience using decompression therapy on patients for a number of conditions. We can evaluate your situation and set up a personalized treatment plan.

 Usually, patients need to be decompressed multiple times per week or month. Spinal compression and disc problems often develop over a long period of time, and healing is a gradual process. Most patients feel better after the first few visits and continue to see improvement throughout treatment.