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Spinal Decompression Therapy
If you have lasting back pain and other related symptoms, you know how disruptive to your life it can be. You may be unable to think of little else except finding relief. Some people turn to spinal decompression therapy -- either surgical or nonsurgical. Here's what you need to know to help decide whether it might be right for you.
What Is Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression?
Nonsurgical spinal decompression is a type of motorized traction that may help relieve back pain. Spinal decompression works by gently stretching the spine. That changes the force and position of the spine. This will take pressure off the spinal disks, which are gel-like cushions between the bones in your spine.
Over time, negative pressure from this therapy may cause bulging or herniated disks to retract. That can take pressure off the nerves and other structures in your spine. This in turn, helps promote movement of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids into the disks so they can heal.
Doctors have used nonsurgical spinal decompression to treat:
More research is needed to establish the effectiveness of nonsurgical spinal decompression. To know how effective it really is, researchers need to compare spinal decompression with other less expensive alternatives to surgery. These include:
How Is Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression Done?
You are fully clothed during spinal decompression therapy. The doctor fits you with a harness around your pelvis and another around your trunk. You either lie face down or face up on a computer-controlled table. A doctor operates the computer, customizing treatment to your specific needs.
Treatment may last 30 to 45 minutes and you may require 20 to 28 treatments over five to seven weeks. Before or after therapy, you may have other types of treatment, such as:
Ask your doctor whether you should stop any activities before or after treatment to enhance your chances of success.
Who Should not Have Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression?
Ask your doctor whether or not you are a good candidate for nonsurgical spinal decompression. It is best not to try it if you are pregnant. People with any of these conditions should also not have nonsurgical spinal decompression:
Surgical spinal decompression is another option for treating certain types of back pain. But it is usually used as a last resort. If other measures don't work, your doctor may suggest surgical spinal decompression for bulging or ruptured disks, bony growths, or other spinal problems. Surgery may help relieve symptoms from pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, including:
Are There Different Types of Spinal Decompression Surgery?
Your doctor may suggest one or more types of back surgeries to relieve the pressure in your spine. In addition, you may need spinal fusion to stabilize your spine. The following are common types of back surgery:
What Are the Risks of Spinal Decompression Surgery?
As with any surgery, there are risks. These are some of the more common risks associated with spinal decompression surgery:
Another risk of surgery is that it may not improve back pain much. It can be difficult to determine who will benefit from spinal decompression surgery.