With around 31 million Americans suffering from back pain at any given point in time, it’s not surprising pain management for this type of discomfort is necessary. There are so many health issues that can cause back problems that no one solution is ideal. However, for many, spinal decompression therapy is a good option.
What is Spinal Decompression Therapy?
Spinal decompression therapy is a non-invasive method of relieving back pain through the use of traction. The procedure is not painful, though patients will feel stretching in their back.
To decompress the spine, the patient lies on a special therapy table. The position (face up or face down) will depend on the practitioner and the type of back injury. The lower half of the table tilts back and forth. The patient is buckled into a harness to ensure security and the table is adjusted to provide traction on the back.
Through gentle stretching and relaxing, the spine is realigned. The idea here is to allow herniated or bulging disks to slip back into place, which relieves the discomfort felt. The position and traction may also promote increased circulation, oxygenation and nutrition to the damaged areas, to speed up healing.
Each treatment lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. To get the full benefit from decompression, it’s usually recommended that the treatments continue for four to six weeks, with several sessions each week. After 15-30 treatments, the patient should notice a definite improvement.
Other therapies may also be included during the sessions to make them more effective. Depending on the clinic, ultrasound, cold therapy, heat therapy or electrical stimulation can be used during the procedure. When combined, multiple treatments may be more effective.
Who Can Benefit from This Type of Pain Management
Patients with pain caused by bulging, degenerated or herniated disks may benefit from gentle traction. It has also been recommended for sciatica and lower back or neck pain of various types. While mild forms of back pain can be treated safely, it’s a good idea to have a consult before deciding on a course of treatment.
Anyone who is relatively healthy, apart from the back pain, could be a good candidate for this technique. While some websites offer instructions for doing this treatment at home, it is not recommended. A professional is able to adjust the amount of traction to best suit the patient’s needs and to avoid injury. It can be difficult to manage this at home.
Spinal decompression is relatively low risk. Any patients with spinal surgery should consult a doctor before considering this procedure, however. If there is any pain during the stretching, the session should be stopped so the cause of the pain can be determined. Decompression is also not recommended for pregnant women.
In each of these cases, decompression could cause more harm than good and other forms of pain management should be considered. For those with simpler back issues, stretching and decompression may be all that is necessary to relieve chronic pain.