Spinal Decompression

By Moses Jacob, DC
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Back spine pain and human backache as a skeleton showing the spine and vertebral column in glowing highlight as a medical health care concept for spinal health and therapy as a 3D illustration.

Back pain disorder remains a wide-spread and leading cause of work-time lost and increased medical health care costs.

Many studies have shown that conservative treatment rather than surgery has been shown to be effective for pain relief and proven cost benefit. Conservative care for back pain includes chiropractic, physiotherapy, acupuncture,  combined with appropriate exercise regimen. Traction therapy or mechanical spinal decompression is a modality which  has been utilized for many years to treat back pain. 

Spinal decompression is a type of mechanized or motorized type traction. Stretching of the spinal structures, a non-surgical approach with the goal to relieve back or neck pain which may be respectively coupled with radicular leg and or arm pain.

Decompression is based on the theory that spinal  disc, related  nuclear and ligament structures, and spinal joints are creating pressure or compression  affecting  the spinal nerves. The  “pressure irritation” leads to mechanical or even chemical mediated pains. In theory reversing pressure on disc bulge, or a degenerative disc,  or on the spinal nerves by mechanical or gravitational stretching,  helps promote healing processes and thereby reduction of pain.

When should someone consider spinal decompression?

If back pain or neck pain has not favorably responded to  an appropriate course of conservative treatment e.g. spinal manipulation coupled with exercise. If the problems  sciatic persist and becomes chronic or recurrent, then a short trial of approximately 6-8 sessions spinal decompression may help some patients.

Types: There are various devices and methods including, Vax-D, Cox-table, Ther-x, DRX9000,  a  high-end sometimes overpriced computer driven device. Also there are many home based simple to  inversion traction units now marketed on line and on TV.

Caveats and Cautions: people need to be careful with home based units. There are risk for those who also suffer with  high blood pressure or possibly to develop glaucoma.

For the record this author must state that the  science based spinal literature does NOT look favorably  at spinal decompression. The article below sums this up.

Non-surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy:

Does the scientific literature support efficacy claims made in the advertising media?

Dwain M Daniel

Chiropractic and Osteopathy : 2007; 15: 7. 

There is very limited evidence in the scientific literature to support the effectiveness of non-surgical spinal decompression therapy. This intervention has never been compared  to exercise, spinal manipulation, standard medical care or other less expensive conservative treatment options which have an ample body of research demonstrating efficacy. Considering the cost-benefit relationship, many better researched and less expensive treatment options are available to the clinician.

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