7 Ways Decompression Therapy Can Help Your Spine

Dr. Lambros Lambrou Mar 10, 2020

Before you book back surgery or decide you're doomed to a lifetime of lumbar pain, consider spinal decompression therapy. Though you can request decompression therapy anytime your doctor deems it appropriate, this nonsurgical procedure is often a last-ditch effort from patients who haven't gotten the results they want from other treatments. Adults with low back pain generally come to Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine wanting decompression therapy after other doctors have recommended a spinal fusion, discectomy, or laminectomy. In many cases, we are able to help these patients avoid surgery and obtain long-lasting relief from nerve or back pain.

While this may sound promising, perhaps you're still not convinced spinal decompression is right for you. That's okay — we're here to help you make an informed decision. Check out the info below to learn how decompression therapy can help your spine, whether you've got a herniated disc or a painful case of stenosis.

1. Spinal Decompression Helps Relieve Nerve Pressure

As you lay on a decompression table, the machine gently moves your spine toward its correct position. This process helps remove the pressure that pushes the discs in your spine out of place, which in turn prevents these discs from pressing against nearby nerves.

So, what's that mean for you? In many cases, creating negative pressure in your spinal discs helps reduce pain and inflammation in your body.

When misaligned discs compress nerves, you may notice sharp, shooting pains that extend from your back to your hips, thighs, legs, and feet. You may also experience tingling, numbness, and burning sensations. Moving herniated or bulging discs away from nearby nerves helps prevent and decrease these issues.

2. Decompression Therapy Can Help Prevent Spinal Surgery

When chiropractic care and physical therapy fail, many patients turn to therapeutic injections. Unfortunately, these injections may not offer permanent relief, so some patients fear that surgery may be their only long-term solution.

Spinal decompression therapy can help some patients prevent or postpone spinal surgery, including spinal fusions or discectomy surgeries. In fact, many of our patients are surprised by how well this nonsurgical treatment alleviates their lower back pain. Some patients even experience relief after just one session, though ongoing care is typically required for optimal benefits.

Decompression therapy works by gently stretching your spine, giving herniated discs a chance to slip back into their intended slots. If your body holds these changes rather than rejecting them, you may not need surgery.

3. Decompression Therapy Can Help Your Spine Heal From Chronic Pain

Some treatments only address acute flare-ups, but spinal decompression also tackles chronic pain. That's because it addresses the cause of your pain, not just the symptoms. This helps your body heal itself without surgery or other invasive procedures.

When bulging discs retract, it's easier for your body to distribute oxygen and other nutrients to your spinal area. These nutrients help your body repair damaged nerves and muscles by reducing swelling and inflammation. 

Inflammation is often responsible for pain in the spine, so decreasing inflammation also decreases the symptoms of a misaligned spine.

4. Spinal Decompression Treats Different Conditions

We typically perform decompression therapy on patients with pain in the low-to-mid back, but the procedure isn't restricted to a specific condition. Spinal decompression helps provide relief for patients with the following conditions:

  • Sciatica
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Injured or infected nerves in the spine
  • Posterior facet syndrome

If you're not sure you have one of these conditions or a similar one that may benefit from decompression therapy, we can take a look during a complete physical exam, which may include digital imaging.

5. Decompression Therapy Can Provide Fast Relief

Spinal decompression generally doesn't cause pain or discomfort, and treatments last approximately 45 minutes. Many people experience decreased pain after just one treatment, though you may need additional appointments to see the best results. That's because we want to make sure your spine stays in place, as discs tend to return to their preferred spots, even if it isn't good for your body.

After multiple spinal decompression sessions, your spine may retain the correct position, resulting in long-term relief from the constant pain that once plagued your body. If your spine requires frequent treatments, expect to visit us a few times a week for a month or two. This gives us plenty of time to promote maximum healing in your spine.

6. Spinal Decompression Helps Retract Herniated Discs

Herniated discs are notoriously difficult to treat because your body may like where the discs have moved — even if you don't. Your body gets used to its new out-of-whack back, even if it causes discomfort, so it can be difficult to get discs back where they belong. Many doctors try, only to find that discs have moved back to their incorrect positions during follow-up care.

Spinal decompression gently helps bulging or herniated discs return to their correct locations for long-term relief. Over time, decompression therapy may help your discs remain in place instead of continuing to migrate outside of their intended spots.

7. Decompression Therapy Gently Stretches Your Spine

When your spine is compressed, it's difficult to get parts back where they belong. Decompression therapy stretches your spine, temporarily expanding the area around it so that discs can return to their correct places. This also encourages fluid circulation in areas that were previously restricted, so your body can deliver much-needed nutrients to damaged or diseased parts of your spine.

Spinal decompression therapy is performed while you lay on a flat table. In some cases, we can put a pillow under your knees to relieve pressure while you relax.

While you rest, you are carefully buckled into a harness connected to a gentle yet effective machine. We input custom data about your condition, then let the machine work its magic for up to 45 minutes per session. We may also combine other treatments, such as cold laser therapy or electrical stimulation, with your decompression.

Things to Consider Before Choosing Spinal Decompression

Decompression therapy is a nonsurgical alternative to many conventional treatments for back pain. Some patients experience immediate, long-lasting relief, but the procedure isn't ideal for every patient. Let us know if you've had back surgery in the past or if you have implants in your body. Patients with fractured vertebrae, tumors, or a history of aneurysms may also want to avoid spinal decompression therapy and should check this out for other treatment options instead.

Spinal decompression is generally very safe, but it may cause rare side effects in some patients. Side effects may include increased pain, muscle spasms, and tingling in the body. You can help prevent these side effects by giving us accurate information about your current conditions and treatment plans. We can also communicate with your other health care providers to ensure we have accurate information about your health.

We also perform a detailed exam prior to recommending or administering decompression therapy at Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine. This helps us determine whether spinal decompression is the most effective treatment option for your pain.

Spinal Decompression at Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine

Decompression therapy is a nonsurgical, drug-free treatment for patients with chronic back pain. When you compare the cost of multiple spinal decompression therapy sessions with the cost of back surgery, you may find that it's significantly cheaper.

Also, you can generally return to work after decompression therapy, even if you visit us on your lunch break. The recovery timeline for spinal surgery can require weeks — sometimes months — of rest. This makes it difficult to perform your job or keep up with household tasks, so many patients prefer decompression therapy.

Contact our knowledgeable team if you think that decompression therapy can help your spine. During your consultation, our doctors explain the pros and cons of spinal decompression and let you know if you're a good candidate for the treatment. If you decide spinal decompression isn't right for you, we can talk to you about other pain management options, such as chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and laser therapy.

Don't let pain keep you from doing the things you enjoy. Contact Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine to learn how you can treat back pain without surgery or medication.

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