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All You Need To Know About The Spinal Decompression

General Health

All You Need To Know About The Spinal Decompression

Image Source: Albina Gavrilovic / Shutterstock

All You Need To Know About The Spinal Decompression

Many individuals experience discomfort in their back and neck, which can become debilitating in severe instances. Various factors can contribute to these conditions, with some of the more severe issues stemming from problems with spinal discs, the cushioning material between the vertebrae.

Conditions such as degenerative disc disease, bulging or herniated discs, radiculopathy (pinched spinal nerve roots), and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the space within the backbone causing pressure on the spinal cord and nerves) can lead to significant pain, particularly in the neck and lower back regions.

Additionally, pressure on the sciatic nerves can result in added discomfort, sending pain through the buttocks and hips, often extending down the legs.

To address these distressing symptoms, spinal decompression therapy can be a viable option.

Spinal decompression involves a treatment aimed at stretching the spine and adjusting its alignment to reduce pressure on the spinal discs. This technique can be performed surgically or non-surgically, with the common goal of alleviating pain.

How Does Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy Work?

Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy, despite its intimidating name, is a relatively straightforward process. Typically, the patient lies on a specialized table designed for this purpose, known as a Spinal Decompression Table.

There are two main types of tables used for this therapy:

1. The first type employs cables and pulleys that are precisely calibrated to apply a controlled traction force to stretch the spine. The objective is to lessen pressure on the spinal discs and nerves, thereby reducing pain.

2. The second type features segmented portions along the body’s top and bottom that move independently to provide a massage-like effect, creating negative pressure to stretch the spine.

While both table styles can yield positive results, some experts favor the latter as it tends to trigger less muscle tension compared to the former, where the body may be in a state of muscle guarding similar to holding a plank exercise position.

A typical spinal decompression therapy regimen involves around 20 sessions lasting between 15 to 30 minutes each. Complementary treatments like electrical stimulation, heat or cold therapy, and occasional ultrasound sessions may be used before or after the decompression sessions.

Is the Process Painful?

While mild soreness may be common, there should not be excessive pain during the therapy. In fact, the aim of the procedure is to alleviate the pressure on discs and nerves that contribute to the pain.

If sharp pain is experienced, it is essential to promptly inform the chiropractor for proper assessment.

Reasons to Avoid Non-Surgical Spinal Therapy

Certain medical conditions make non-surgical spinal decompression therapy unsuitable, as it could exacerbate these conditions.

Individuals with tumors, fractures, advanced osteoporosis, or abdominal aortic aneurysms should refrain from this therapy unless approved by a qualified medical professional.

Patients with spinal metal implants should also avoid this treatment.

Surgical Decompression Therapy

Surgical decompression therapy, known as “lumbar decompression surgery,” typically involves one of three procedures tailored to the specific condition, conducted under general anesthesia to ensure the patient does not experience any discomfort during the surgery.

  1. Laminectomy – This procedure aims to relieve nerve pressure by removing a segment of spinal bone.
  2. Discectomy – Similar to a laminectomy, this procedure involves removing a portion of the damaged spinal disc.
  3. Spinal Fusion – In this procedure, the surgeon fuses two or more vertebrae together using a bone piece to enhance spinal stability.

What Are the Risks Associated with Surgery?

While surgical decompression therapy carries inherent risks common to invasive procedures, serious complications are rare.

Potential risks include nerve damage, tissue damage, blood clots, bleeding, infection, and allergic reactions to anesthesia. There is also a risk of the surgery being ineffective or yielding limited results. Nonetheless, this type of surgery has generally shown positive outcomes, with many individuals experiencing significant pain relief afterward.

What Is the Recovery Process Like?

Unless the surgery is complex or mobility is restricted post-operation, patients can usually leave the hospital within four days.

Typically, walking ability returns within a day, but strenuous activities should be avoided for approximately six weeks. Patients can typically return to work around this time, provided the job does not involve heavy lifting.

The Bottom Line

Spinal pain can be excruciating and incapacitating, but there are effective solutions that can significantly improve the quality of life and provide relief.

Non-surgical decompression therapy is effective for various disc and nerve-related issues, offering immediate and long-term relief with minimal discomfort.

For more severe cases, surgical lumbar decompression can address serious problems and alleviate pain or resolve the issue entirely. Though not without risks, a notable percentage of patients undergoing these surgeries experience substantial improvements.

It is advisable to seek guidance from medical professionals to determine the best approach for managing individual conditions.

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