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SCOTT COOK: Help for spinal issues

on November 20, 2012 11:00 AM

Question: What is spinal decompression therapy?

Answer: Spinal decompression is a nonsurgical therapy to relieve back pain and other problems associated with spinal disc injuries.

Spinal decompression is a procedure that is designed to take pressure off the spine, encouraging the spine to heal from conditions that are related to pressure. There are two major types of spinal decompression: surgical and nonsurgical.

In the case of surgical spinal decompression, a surgeon goes into the spine directly to remove pressure from things like herniated discs. The relief of pressure is designed to help the herniated material slip back into place, and to reduce strain on the back while it heals.

Nonsurgical spinal decompression involves gently stretching and repositioning the spine to promote the relief of pressure. In the case of herniation, nonsurgical decompression is supposed to create a vacuum which sucks herniated material back into place, and in other conditions, nonsurgical spinal decompression releases strain on the spine, which can in turn release pinched nerves and treat conditions like facet joint syndrome, degenerative disc disease and other conditions that cause back pain, numbness and tingling.

Spinal decompression treatment is noninvasive and provides gentle decompression of the disc through the use of a decompression table. You are strapped to the table so that as it moves it applies a distraction force to the targeted area of the spine (the compressed disc). A computer controls the distraction force, which is applied in between periods of relaxation. This gently pulls the spine apart, elongating it and creating a small vacuum between the vertebrae that pulls the disc back into shape.

There is a big difference between traction, distraction and decompression. Traction has been around for hundreds of years. In 1998, Scientific American rated traction to be of little or no value for treatment of low back pain.

This finding is consistent with many studies that report traction can oftentimes trigger a response and put a patient's back muscles in spasm, resisting any attempts to effect a change on the disc.

Distraction, a term used to describe a flexion distraction technique, attempts to reposition the spine and disc alignment. This technique has been shown to be very effective, even though potentially damaging to the person performing the technique and largely dependent on the skill of the technician. Like traction, distraction procedures are limited in the ability to reduce the intradiscal pressure.

In our office the treatment typically lasts between 10 to 25 minutes and 15 to 20 sessions are typically required. These treatments build on each other, eventually allowing the disc to reshape itself, heal and get the proper flow of nutrients going to fight off brittleness and future injuries.

Decompression is the only nonsurgical treatment that is truly most effective for severe cases of herniation, degeneration, arthritis, stenosis and pressure on nerves. According to a clinical study performed by the Orthopedic Technological Review in 2004, 86 percent of all cases experienced spinal pain relief with disc decompression.

As with any medical treatment, a proper examination and diagnosis is required by a professional before beginning treatment.

Ask your chiropractor or health care provider today to see if spinal decompression may be right for you.

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