Spinal Decompression Facts

Spinal Decompression Facts

Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy



We’d like you to contact us for a FREE MRI Review and Consultation at our clinic.  There are always options available that may not have been considered.  There may yet be a treatment that is so advanced that many Doctor’s haven’t yet heard of it?  Until that time, you may be living with your pain needlessly, hampered by disability, and avoiding meaningful social interaction.



Have You Ever Been in This Situation?


  1. You need surgery and you’re concerned about the risks involved
  2. There’s no viable treatment option for you
  3. You’ve failed a course of conventional conservative treatment i.e. medication, physical therapy, rehab, injections, epidurals, acupuncture, chiropractic
  4. You’ve consulted numerous health care professionals to no avail
  5. You’re MRI, CT Scan, or X-Ray doesn’t look good
  6. You delayed seeking treatment early and now the damage might be permanent
  7. Your concerned that you may have to live with your pain from this point on



Get ready to take back your Life.

We’re here to do something about it!



How Effective Is Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy?


In a recent study published in Orthopedic Technology Review, Decompression Therapy was shown to be 86% effective in treating herniated and degenerative discs.  Another study published in Anesthesiology News showed that after 4 years, over 91 % remained pain free.


In the Journal of Neurological Research VOL 20, NO 4, researchers stated: “We consider decompression therapy to be a primary treatment modality for low back pain associated with lumbar disc herniation at single or multiple levels, degenerative disc disease, facet arthropathy, and decreased spine mobility.  We believe that post-surgical patients with persistent pain or “Failed Back Syndrome” should not be considered candidates for further surgery until a reasonable trial of decompression has been tried.”


In the Journal of Neurological Research VOL 23, NO 7, October 2001 the researchers stated:  “Decompression therapy, addresses both primary and secondary causes of low back and referred leg pain.  We thus submit that Decompression therapy should be considered first, before the patient undergoes a surgical procedure which permanently alters the anatomy and function of the affected lumbar spine segment.”



What Causes Spinal Pain?


The spinal column is compromised of bones that protect the spinal cord like armor plating.  The spinal cord is comprised of nerves that send signals down from your brain to communicate, control, and coordinate your whole body function.  When nerves become irritated, they don’t function properly resulting in pain, and loss of function.  Nerves are very sensitive to even the slightest irritation.  Bottom line, if the nerves aren’t happy, you’re not happy.



What are Discs?


In order to be able to move, we have flexible discs between our spinal bones that are called vertebrae.  The discs maintain the spaces where these nerves can exit connecting to other parts of the body.  They also act as shock absorbers to protect both the spine, and it’s precious cargo, our nerves.  The center of each disc has a soft center called the Nucleus Pulposus that is responsible for most of the cushioning function.  The outer fibrous ring of the disc is called the Annulus Fibrosis and its job is to keep the Nucleus Pulposus within the disc from escaping and causing problems.



What is a Pinched Nerve or Slipped Disc?


Sometimes, this occurs fast like a flat tire on a car, or a slow leak over time that causes bone spurs to form.  Either way, the end result is the same…pain, dysfunction, and disability.  Repeated shock and trauma cause the discs to wear out prematurely in a process of spinal decay otherwise known as Degenerative Disc Disease or Arthritis.    The disc becomes flattened and your own spine begins to clamp down on the nerves themselves causing pain.  Like a jelly donut that gets squished, the Nucleus Fibrosis can be extruded touching the nerves causing chemical irritation and mechanical friction.  This is what happens with a Disc Bulge or Herniation.  When nerves become irritated, they don’t function properly.



Why are the Nerves so Significant?


Some of the nerves are functional, others are sensory.  Sensory nerves conduct sensations like pain, numbness, tingling, heat, cold, taste, smell etc.  Functional nerves control body functions like your heart beat, blood pressure, sweat, release of hormones, muscular control etc.  There are roughly 9 times as many functional nerves in the body vs. sensory.  Of the sensory nerves, maybe 4% are responsible for the sensation of pain.  Nerve bundles contain both functional and sensory nerves.  That means, it’s impossible to separate the dysfunction of one from the other.  By the time your pain starts to get noticeably worse, you’ve lost considerably more nerve function without even knowing it.



How Soon Can I Expect Results?


A reduction in symptoms including pain usually occurs after the first week of treatment.  Significant improvement is typically seen by the second week of treatment.  That being said, it’s important to finish the entire treatment protocol for lasting results.



What is the Basic Treatment Protocol?


The treatment protocol involves 20 to 24 treatments depending on the individual and the severity of their condition.  Individual decompression treatments require approximately 30 minutes per session, and are performed daily during the first two weeks.  Treatments are performed to patient tolerance.  The subsequent two week period involves three treatments per week.  For the remaining two weeks, the patient is treated twice weekly.  If medically necessary, more treatments will be provided.



What Else Can I Do To Get Better Faster?


Usually, when patients become inactive due to injury or have been in pain for a long time, physical therapy and rehabilitation may be medically necessary.  The whole idea is for patients to be able to reliably perform “Activities of Daily Living” and return to work without further risk of injury.  This is sometimes referred to as “Work Hardening” or “Occupational Therapy”.  This is done to improve range of motion, strength, endurance, balance, and coordination.  Similarly, the doctor may recommend health and lifestyle changes including a healthy diet, nutritional counseling, nutritional supplements, and weight loss.  It’s what we do, and we’re good at it.  Our customized program goes a long way towards maintaining your current gains, and preventing future injuries.



Do I Qualify for Treatment?


That’s a question posed often by both Doctors and Patients alike.  While we don’t shy away from difficult cases, proper patient selection is important.  Not everyone is a candidate for Spinal Decompression Therapy.  If you have the following, you may be a candidate for Spinal Decompression Therapy:


  • Disc Pain exceeding 4 Weeks Time
  • Recurrent Pain due to Failed Back Surgery exceeding 6 Months Time
  • Persistent Pain due to Disc Degeneration Un-Responsive to Treatment > 4 Weeks
  • Patients Unable to Complete Treatment Protocol of 4 Weeks
  • Must be 18 Years of Age


You may be disqualified from Spinal Decompression Therapy if you have the following:


  • Surgical Appliances i.e. pedicle hardware (screws and rods)
  • Prior lumbar fusion less than six months old
  • Metastatic Cancer
  • Severe Osteoporosis
  • Unstable Spondylolisthesis
  • Recent Compression Fracture of Lumbar Spine
  • Pars Defects
  • Pathologic Aortic Aneurysm
  • Pelvic or Abdominal Cancer
  • Infections of the Disc Space
  • Severe Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Hemiplegia, Paraplegia, or Cognitive Dysfunction
  • Pregnancy



Are There any Side Effects to the Treatment?


Side effects are uncommon.  Muscle spasms may occur for a short period of time after treatment.  Our treatment protocol is designed to promote patient healing and comfort.



Is Spinal Decompression Therapy Safe?


Yes.  It is an excellent alternative to any invasive surgical procedure.  Spinal Decompression Therapy is both safe, and comfortable for patients.  There are emergency stop switches for both the patient and operator.  The switches stop treatment IMMEDIATELY preventing any risk of injury, and were a requirement for obtaining FDA Clearance.



Is Spinal Decompression Therapy FDA Cleared


Absolutely.  Our clinic prides itself on using the most advanced technologies available.  It’s our way of assuring good outcomes for not just patient’s, but their families and friends alike.  We take the matter of patient referrals very seriously.  Patient satisfaction is everything to us.  We use the latest modern evidence-based guidelines and treatment protocols developed over years of clinical research and personal experience.  Know anyone that could use our help?  Give us a call.



How is Spinal Decompression Therapy Different than Traction?


In most disc injuries, the natural pumping mechanism breaks down causing a failure in disc integrity.  Restoring the disc’s natural pumping mechanism is key.


Leaky Disc + Broken Pump = Flat or Blown Disc


Traction is static, causes painful muscle spasms, and can’t replicate the natural pumping action.  Spinal Decompression is a dynamic process that creates a vacuum inside the disc sucking in the herniation along with healing nutrients so that the disc can repair itself over time.  This allows the fibroblasts to seal leaks thereby re-hydrating the disc.  The pumping action flushes out waste products while simultaneously pushing in healthy nutrients for rapid healing.  The intensity of the decompression is varied in both degree and force to produce a gentle rhythmic pull along a logarithmic curve.  This is needed to prevent the muscle spasm / guarding typical of traction.  It’s the avoidance of this response that enables us to target one specific disc at a time.
















Research Studies


Shealy N, Leroy P: New Concepts in Back Pain Management. AJPM (1) 20:239241 1998. Determined optimum parameters regarding supine position, progression to peak force, and altering the angles of pull from 10 degrees (L5-S 1) to 30 degrees (L3) creating enhanced distraction at specific levels.


Ramos G, Martin Wm: Effects of axial decompression on intradiscal pressure. J Neuro 81: 350-353, 1994.  Significant negative pressure (-100mm Hg) was recorded at L4/5 disc in response to axial distraction.  Possible minimum threshold force of -50 pounds tension suggested.


Bogduk, N,: The Anatomical Basis for Spinal Pain Syndromes. JMPT 6:Nov.Dec1995.  Muscles are not believed to be a source of chronic pain.  70% of all chronic back pain can be attributed to disc and facet pain.


Constatoyannis C, et. al.: Intermittent Cervical Traction for Radiculopathy Due to Large-Volume Herniations. JMPT, 25 (3) 2002.  Studied participants with large volume disc herniations.  Resulted in complete resolution of symptoms in some patients.


Onel,D et. al.: CT Investigation of the effects of Traction on Lumbar Herniation.  Spine 14: 82-90, 1989.  Hernia retraction occurred in 70% of the study participants.  Good clinical improvements were seen in over 93%.  Improved blood flow via decompression therapy was the source of the healing.


Saal, JA Saal, JS: Nonoperative Treatment of Herniated Lumbar Disc w/ Radiculopathy. Spine 14 (4): 431-437, 1989.  Studying participants with leg symptoms showed that overall, 86% had good-excellent results wit decompression therapy.


Komari H, et al.:  The Natural History of Herniated Nucleus with Radiculopathy.  Spine 21: 225-229,  1996  Herniation treatment using disc decompression results in good to excellent symptomatic improvements in over 82% or study participants.  Improving the disc’s contact with the blood supply accounts for healing of disc herniations.


Mathews, JA: Dynamic Discography:  A Study of Lumbar Traction. Annals of Phys Med, IX (7), 265-279, 1968.  Subjects with herniated lumbar discs were given decompression therapy.  Study proves that a negative intradiscal force was created.


Lidstom, A Zachrisson M:  PT of the low back pain and sciatica. Scan Joul of Rehab Med, 2: 37-42, 1970.  Intermittent supine traction with -+50% body-weight with added exercises showed considerable improvement in over 90% of subjects.


Hood, LB Chrissman, D: Intermittent Traction in the Treatment of Rupture Disc Plays Ther 48: 21, 1968.  Patients experiencing neurological symptoms were treated with traction on a friction-free table.  Good-excellent results were obtained in 55%.


Mathews JA et. al.: Manipulation and traction for Lumbago and Sciatica. Physio Pract 4: 201, 1988.  Decompression forces applied approaching 100 lbs for 20 minutes lead to substantial relief in over 85% of study participants.


Gose E, Naguszewski W&R: Vertebral axial Decompression for Pain associated With Herniated and Degenerated Discs or Facet syndrome: an Outcome Study. Neuro Research, (20) 3, 186-190, 1997.  Retrospective analysis of difficult, treatment resilient cases showed a 71% good to excellent success rate.


Weatherall VF: Comparison of electrical activity in the sacrospinalis musculature during traction in two different positions. J Ortho Sports Phys Ther(8):382-390, 1995.  EMG electrical activity showed similar activity in prone vs. supine positions.


Letchuman R, Deusinger RH: Comparison of sacrospinalis myoelectric activity and pain levels in patients undergoing static and intermittent lumbar traction. Spine 18(10): 1361-1365, 1993.  It was determined that intermittent traction was more comfortable than static traction with regards to muscle guarding and contraction.


Chin YG, Li FB, Huang CD: Biomechanics of traction for lumbar disc prolapse. Chinese Ortho; Jan(l): 40-2, 1994.  Studied the disruption of the hydrostatic mechanism occuring with complete annular damage and prolapse.  Proved that intradiscal pressure was proportional to distraction distance.


Nanno M: Effects of intermittent cervical traction on muscle pain. EMG and flowmetric studies on cervical paraspinals. Nippon Med J; Apr;61(2):137-47, 1994.  Intermittent cervical traction was shown to be effective in relieving pain, increasing frequency of myo-electric signals, and improving blood circulation in affected muscles.


Chung TS, Lee YJ et ah Reducibility of cervical herniation: evaluation at MRI during cervical traction with a nonmagnetic device. Radiology Dec; 225(3):895900,2002.  Subjects undergoing intermittent traction showed substantial increases in vertebral column length with associated herniation reduction.


Dietrich Met al: Non-linear finite element analysis of formation and treatment of disc herniation. Proc Inst Mech Eng; 206(4):225-31, 1992.  Loads similar to what we experience daily are enough to cause instability and lateral nuclear displacement.  Suggests that conservative therapy including decompression may result in 40% hernia retraction.



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