What Does Spinal Decompression Actually Do?

What Does Spinal Decompression Actually Do?

Spinal decompression uses a mechanized table to gentle stretch apart the spinal vertebrae to provide relief from discomfort. The technique is designed to relieve pressure on nerves that may become compressed by damaged discs that act as cushions between the individual vertebrae.

Spinal decompression has been found to be effective for a number of spinal conditions. A chiropractor may provide non-surgical spinal decompression in their office as part of your treatment plan. Surgical spinal decompression is also performed for pain relief. Spinal decompression exercises can also be done at home to help relieve compressed nerve problems.

What is Spinal Decompression?

Spinal decompression is a process designed to carefully separate the vertebrae of the spine to relieve pressure on nerves that results in pain and poor function in the back. A number of different methods are used for this process. A non-surgical decompression method is generally performed by chiropractors. Surgical spinal decompression procedures are performed by orthopedists and spinal specialists.

How Does Spinal Decompression Work?


The Negative Pressure Technique

Negative pressure technique uses stretching to create a vacuum between the spinal discs. The stretching action allows the discs to fall back into their normal positions, reducing pressure on nerve roots. Stretching also helps to move oxygen, nutrients and water through the spinal structures for faster healing of injured tissues.

Motorized Traction Method

In the motorized traction method of spinal decompression, the chiropractor will have the patient lie down on a special mechanized table. A series of slings, pulleys and ropes are used to hold the body while stretching the spinal column.

Intradiscal Pressure Reduction

Another method of relieving back pain symptoms is to reduce the intradiscal pressure by either internal or external means. A surgical method is to insert rods into the spine that hold apart and support the discs within the vertebrae. A non-surgical, external method uses an inflatable vest that performs a similar action is separating the discs to relieve pressure on nerves.

Types of Treatment


Motorized Traction Devices

Chiropractors use specially designed traction tables that allow them to control the amount of stretching applied to the patient’s body to release tension in the spinal column. The chiropractor will then direct the position of the patient to apply the action to where it is needed for the most effective relief.

Inversion Therapy

This method has the patient lie on a freestanding, specialized table, which then tilts to hold the person in an upside-down position. This action causes the vertebrae of the spine to stretch out, relieving pressure on spinal structures.

Manual Manipulation

Chiropractors receive extensive training in manual spinal adjustment techniques. These techniques can be used to realign and stretch out the spine to relieve compression of nerve roots and reduce discomfort.

Benefits of Spinal Decompression Therapy

Spinal decompression helps to create more space for the nerve roots, to relieve compression and pain. It can also help to relieve tension in injured muscles and bring healing nutrients to damaged tissues. Non-surgical spinal decompression helps to reset the discs that cushion the spine to improve comfort, flexibility and range of motion.

Who Can Benefit From Spinal Decompression?


Neck Pain Relief

Individuals who have persistent neck pain can benefit from spinal decompression therapy that relieves pressure on nerve roots in the upper spine.

Leg Pain Relief

Nerves that travel down the backs of the legs have their root point at the base of the spine. These roots can become compressed, leading to leg pain, numbness or weakness.

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) Patients

Aging can cause degeneration of spinal structures, which can lead to pain and problems with flexibility and poor range of motion. Stenosis, osteoathritis and other conditions can cause compression of vertebrae and pain from compressed nerves.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Spinal Stenosis Patients

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the space inside the spinal column becomes narrowed, putting pressure on the structures and nerves that run through it. The problem is usually a factor of aging and arthritis. Individuals may experience pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in the lower body. Non-surgical spinal decompression can help to stretch out the spinal column to relieve nerve compression.

Frequently Asked Questions


Does spinal decompression actually work

Yes, spinal decompression therapy can be an effective method for relieving spinal discomfort from a number of conditions.

What happens during a spinal decompression?

During non-surgical spinal decompression, the patient lies on a special table, fully clothed, and a harness is place around the upper and lower body. The mechanism then begins to gently stretch the spine, controlled by the chiropractor.

How long does spinal decompression take to work?

Some patients may have relief from discomfort only after a few sessions. Others may need a full schedule of treatment to achieve relief. According to the WebMD site, non-surgical spinal decompression in generally done in sessions of 30 to 45 minutes. As many as 30 sessions may be necessary to achieve the full effect of the treatment. Patients often experience a significant difference in their comfort in 4 to 6 weeks after surgical decompression.

How long do the benefits of spinal decompression last?

The length of relief that non-surgical spinal decompression can bring depends on the underlying spine problem. Some individuals may have permanent relief from symptoms. Other individuals may achieve only temporary relief and must return to the chiropractor for periodic treatments.

Is spinal decompression a permanent fix?

In some cases, a few sessions of spinal decompression can permanently resolve spinal discomfort. However, successful outcomes are dependent on the underlying cause of the problem. Periodic decompression sessions may be needed for continued relief in some patients.

How often should you decompress your spine?

How often you should decompress your spine depends on a number of individual factors. Your chiropractor can advise you on how often to receive in-office treatment and how frequently you should do at-home decompression exercises.

What are the drawbacks of spinal decompression?

Non-surgical spinal decompression can cause some muscle and nerve pain, but these cases are rare. Surgical spinal decompression may not always be successful in resolving back pain issues.

Why does spinal decompression feel so good?

Many people who undergo spinal decompression therapy report relief from discomfort and improved function as a result of their procedure. The increased circulation in the spine and flow of nutrients and natural healing chemicals often create a sensation of well being.

Who benefits from spinal decompression?

Individuals who are experiencing back pain from herniated discs or stenosis can benefit from spinal decompression. Pinched nerves and sciatica can also be improved with decompression. Chronic neck pain can also be improved with the technique.

What is the success rate of spinal decompression surgery?

According to the National Library of Medicine, the success rate of surgical decompression procedures are around 70 percent, depending on pre-existing factors.

Can spinal decompression straighten spine?

Although spinal decompression helps to stretch out spinal structures, it cannot provide enough correction to straighten the spine. Other types of surgery are available for this condition.

What is the best method of spinal decompression?

For some individuals with minor compression issues, simple stretching exercises and chiropractic care will provide reduced pain and improved flexibility. Those with more serious spinal compression may require surgical decompression for relief of pain.

Can I do spinal decompression everyday?

For in-office sessions, your chiropractor will determine the appropriate frequency of non-surgical spinal decompression sessions you need. However, you can do spinal decompression exercises at home every day to maintain strength and flexibility and reduce residual symptoms that may occur.

Do nerves heal after decompression?

Yes, small nerves can heal after spinal decompression therapy. Once the constant pressure is relieved and blood flow to the spine is increased, irritated nerve tissue can begin to heal. After surgical spinal decompression, nerves can begin to recover in about 6 weeks.

How long does spinal decompression last?

A non-surgical spinal decompression session usually lasts about 30 to 45 minutes.

Spinal decompression exercises

One exercise recommended by the Healthline site has the individual lie on their back with knees bent and feet pressed into the floor. You then raise both arms slowly up and over the head to the floor, holding the position for 5 minutes. Then, return to the original position. Do this exercise several times.

Another exercise has the individual get down on their hands and knees. You then bend the spine upward, like a stretching cat, drawing your chin into your chest. Then, bend the spine downward, lifting your chin to the ceiling. Do this exercise several times.

Can spinal decompression cause damage?

One of the risks of spinal decompression therapy is that it can cause additional damage to nerves and spinal discs. Your doctor will determine if the technique is appropriate for your condition.

Spinal decompression therapy side effects

Non-surgical spinal decompression has very few side effects. Some patients may experience some discomfort after a session, but this is mild and usually of short duration.

How often should you do spinal decompression?

Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy is often done in 20 to 30 sessions over a period of several weeks. However, after initial relief of symptoms, patients may require a maintenance schedule of periodic sessions to continue their progress. Spinal decompression exercises can be done at home on an as-needed basis.

Pros and cons of spinal decompression

The pros of non-surgical spinal decompression are that it is non-invasive, so there are no surgical risks and no long healing times. It is relatively inexpensive. Non-surgical decompression has very few side effects and few risk. However, one of the cons is that it is not covered by most insurance, and you may need periodic treatment as time goes on. Surgical spinal decompression entails the usual risks of surgery, such as excessive bleeding, infection and anesthesia reactions. The pros are that surgical spinal decompression is generally very effective, providing relief from symptoms on a permanent basis.

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