What is Spinal decompression?

Spinal Decompression is a non-surgical and drug-free answer for disc related problems of the lumbar or cervical spine. Many people across the country and around the world have found relief from the pain associated with herniated discs, bulging discs, facet syndrome, degenerative joint disease, pinched nerves, and other spinal afflictions from decompression therapy. Spinal Disc Decompression uses computer-aided technology to apply gentle, non-surgical decompression to your spine which increases circulation into the spinal discs and joints, thus helping to relieve the symptoms that cause pain and dysfunction.

What conditions does Spinal Decompression treat?

Do you have a herniated disc, multiple herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, facet syndrome, or any other type of spinal problem? Is your doctor suggesting surgery, pain management, or physical therapy? Have you tried traditional Chiropractic or physical therapy and just could not get enough relief? You may be a candidate for non-surgical spinal decompression. Spinal Decompression is an effective treatment for pinched nerves, sciatica, bulged or herniated discs, radiating arm or neck pain, headaches, degenerative disc disease and facet syndrome.

What will I feel?

This is one of the best parts about spinal decompression. Treatments should never hurt and your comfort is a critical part of the treatment.

For lower back patients, the patient can be positioned on their back or stomach, which ever is more comfortable. This design is a feature of the Triton DTS table that is missing from many other tables. Once positioned on the table, padded straps are used to securely fasten the patient for treatment. For neck patients, the patient is put on there back in a semi-seated position where a soft rubber neck harness is used for the treatment. Once in place for the treatment the computerized equipment starts to pull in small increments, as set by a qualified doctor. By using small increments the body is allowed to relax into the treatment which allows the treatment to be more effective and more comfortable. Once the desired amount of tension is reached it is held for 45-60 seconds (dependent on the condition) followed by a 30 second interval of a decreased amount of tension (approximately half of the upper limit). This continues for 15-25 minutes and then is followed by a slow incremental lowering of tension until no tension is left on the patient.

Many patients have stated that it doesn't feel like the table is pulling hard enough or that they can handle more, which tells us that it is doing its job properly. The less the patient feels with the appropriate amount of pull the more relaxed their body has become and the more effective the treatment is likely to be. This aspect of treatment is very important as proper parameters (settings) are what make this equipment work. Experience goes a long way when it comes to patient outcomes.

How does Spinal Decompression work?

The pumping action of the table does two things:

1. As the table pulls on your spine it slowly stretches your spine and increases the space between the two spinal bones (the disc space). This creates a negative pressure or vacuum in the disc which helps to suck the disc back inwards and away from the nerve that is being pinched. Although the amount is very small each treatment, with consecutive treatments it creates more space for the nerve and decreases the size of the disc herniation.

2. Secondly, the pumping action of the table sucks nutrients in and pushes nutrients out creating a nutrient exchange (imbibition). The increased level of nutrients in the disc allows the disc to have the nutrition it needs to speed up the healing process. Because discs don't have a large blood supply they do not get a lot of nutrients on there own. This is why most people don't just get better on their own, we typically cause as much damage to our discs in a day as we can heal with the natural imbibition. With spinal decompression we greatly increase the nutrients to the disc which provides the building blocks necessary for discs to heal more rapidly. Studies have shown that the disc space can increase 1-3mm over the treatment cycle that is provided. Although that seems a small amount it can have a large influence on the space needed to get pressure off of the sensitive nerves in the area.

Does Spinal Decompression work for all spinal conditions?

No and this is the reason that we do not recommend spinal decompression to every patient who comes to our office. We only treat people who are good candidates for this type of treatment. Our first goal is to give you an honest opinion of what we think will be the outcome of your case. That being said, according to several published peer reviewed studies, patients have had good-excellent clinical improvements 82%-93% of the time - a statistic which we have also found to be accurate in our office. Again to get these types of results we must first determine if this is the right treatment for you. If it isn't, we will try our hardest to find a treatment that will be right for you.

Typically, we see dramatic improvements with:
- Sciatica (pain or pins and needles radiating down one or both legs)
- Radiating neck pain (pain or pins and needles radiating down to shoulders, arms or into hands)

Very good improvements are seen in:
- Chronic neck pain
- Chronic low back pain

Tougher cases, such as spinal stenosis or patients with significant bone spurring, our success rates are a bit lower but still higher than a lot of the other options out there. The most important part to remember is that we will evaluate you and give you options. If we don't think we can help you, we will tell you and try to find an alternate solution.

Is there any research on the effectiveness of Spinal Decompression?

Absolutely! One recent clinical study of 219 patients has shown that spinal decompression therapy provided a resolution of symptoms for 86% of the participants who completed their therapy, while 84% remained pain-free 90 days post-treatment.

There are several tables that perform non-surgical decompression of the spine. The following results were obtained from DRS/Inter-Discal Decompression (IDD) therapy, Vertebral-Axial Decompression and non-surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy. Although the concept of non-surgical Spinal Decompression therapy is similar in the DRS/VAX-D, please note that each table is a registered trademark and the following research may be specific to a specific decompression table/protocol employed.

Clinical Trials:

In a recent journal article in Orthopedic Technology Review titled Surgical Alternatives: Spinal Decompression, results showed that 86% of the 219 patients who completed the therapy reported resolution of symptoms while 84% of patients remained pain free 90 days post treatment. Physical examination findings showed improvement in 92% of the 219 patients, and remained intact in 89% of these patients 90 days after treatment.

Another article in Journal of Neurological Research reported that vertebral axial [spinal] decompression was successful in 71% of the 778 cases". The success rate varied from 73% for patients with a single herniated disc. It was 72% for people with multiple herniated discs.

The American Journal of Pain Management reported "good to excellent" relief in 86% of patients with herniated discs, with back pain and sciatica symptoms being relieved. Good to excellent results were also obtained in 75% of those with facet syndrome.

A small non-randomized study in Anesthesiology News reported of the 23 patients who responded to therapy, 52% had a pain level of zero, 91% were able to resume their normal daily activities, and 87% were either working or were retired without having back pain as the cause of retirement.

In a small study to determine the long-term effects of vertebral axial decompression, the following results were obtained: "Among 23 patients, 71% showed more than 50% reduction in pain immediately after treatment, and 86% showed a 50% or better pain reduction at four years. After four years, 52% of respondents reported a pain level of zero. Thus, pain relief not only improved but lasted. This pilot study shows great promise for long term relief and new pain management techniques.

An interesting study at the Rio Grande Hospital, Department of Neurosurgery compared the effects of 20 treatment sessions vs. 10 treatment sessions on chronic low back pain sufferers. The group receiving 20 treatments of decompression therapy reported a 76.5% with complete remission and 19.6% with partial remission of pain and disability. The second group, receiving 10 treatments of decompression therapy, reported a 42.9% rate of remission and 24.1% with partial remission. Failure rate was only 3.9% for those receiving 20 treatment sessions while it was 32.9% for those receiving only 10 sessions. Remission was defined as 90% or greater relief of pain, back to work without limitations, and abilities to carry out Activities of Daily Living (ADL's). Partial remission was defined as persistence of some pain but ability to carry out most ADL's and return to work with some restriction of duties, depending on the occupation. Failure rate was defined as no change in the level of pain and or/ADL.

As you can see from the above referenced Clinical Trials, Spinal Decompression Therapy is an effective therapy for people experiencing Discogenic or Arthritic pain (pain arising from the disc or caused by various types of Spinal Arthritis). In addition, promising research suggests that the effects of Spinal Decompression Therapy can be a long-lasting solution to certain chronic back pain disorders. Although failure rates are relatively low, studies suggest that completion of prescribed treatments can reduce failure rates from 32.9% to 3.9%.