I can honestly say, the technology advances that have been occurring over the last 20 years, have truly been a God send for many back and/or sciatica sufferers. This blog is mostly going to talk about the advances regarding spinal decompression. In all of my years of practicing, no other equipment purchased by this office has gone so far beyond my expectations than the spinal decompression systems.
What exactly is spinal decompression? Well, spinal decompression is a sophisticated form of traction, specifically designed to treat disc disorders such as herniated disc, degeneration discs, foraminal and spinal stenosis. The key difference between spinal decompression and traction is that spinal decompression is computerized and the pulling is intermittent, whereas traction is a static long-term pull. In the spine, the disc is the cushion/sponge like tissue that separates each vertebra. These discs have a jelly center and sometimes this gel can tear through the wall that keeps the gel centered. As a result of lifting, bending over, accidents etc., the disc starts to protrude out into the spinal cord putting pressure on the spinal column or nerves. This can be extremely painful and can lead, in many cases, to surgery.
A side note: most people receiving surgery for spinal herniations or protrusions have never tried spinal decompression prior to surgery. It is my belief, that had they tried spinal decompression therapy prior to surgery, a conservative estimate of at least 50% of the patients could have avoided having surgery in the first place. So exactly what does spinal decompression do? Spinal decompression produces a negative gravity at the disc level. This negative gravity creates a suction or vacuum type effect, which causes the gel to literally be sucked back towards the center of the disc area where it belongs. Most patients receiving spinal decompression will see significant results within 2-5 treatments. Sciatica will begin to localize, which means it starts to move back up the leg towards the back or just simply resolve.
Interesting point about traction: in the past, traction was considered the gold standard for most back conditions. In fact, patients were frequently put into hospitals and then into traction for 4-6 hours each day with hot bean packs placed on their backs. As a result of taking a good thing way too far, traction lost its favor in the medical community for quite some time. Fortunately, over the last 10 to 15 years, the initial viewpoint of traction, or more accurately spinal decompression, has regained favor and is now once again considered the gold standard for disc disorders and/or sciatica. Patients with the diagnoses of herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, sciatica, tingling or numbness in the arms or legs and spondylosis, in most cases, are candidates for spinal decompression therapy. However, there are a few contradictions for spinal decompression. People with back surgeries consisting of screws or plates, or people with severe osteoporosis, may not be good candidates for spinal decompression. It’s also important to know that patients who received spinal decompression, may experience up to 24 hours of discomfort in the back area following therapy. This is a normal part of receiving spinal decompression.
Another question we hear is, “How many spinal decompression sessions are needed?” The recommendation for spinal decompression can vary depending on the severity of the condition, the chronicity of the patient’s condition and also the basic general fitness of the patient. That being said, we have a specific protocol here at Joint & Spine Rehab, which is at the fifth decompression visit, patients are to be re-evaluated to determine how many, if any, additional decompression sessions are necessary. Also, it’s important to note that prior to and after spinal decompression, therapy is required to maximize the benefits. This therapy can include stretching, balancing out the sacroiliac joint and relaxing the muscles.
Another key question we get is, “Are there different types of spinal decompression systems?” The answer is, absolutely! That being said, all systems pretty much create the same negative gravity at the disc level. In the past, the most well-known system has been the DRX 9000. However, over the years, there have been newer and more sophisticated systems available. Patients can now be treated facing upward, downward or even on their side. In fact, our table has 54 different positions. Lastly, patients receiving decompression should have a minimum of at least one x-ray, or more preferably, at least one MRI, to determine if spinal decompression is the right course of action. We welcome any questions regarding the blog above or care in general.