What is spinal decompression?
Spinal decompression is a revolutionary new technology used primarily to treat disc injuries in the neck and in the low back.
- What conditions does spinal decompression treat?
- What will I feel?
- How does spinal decompression work?
- Does spinal decompression work for all spinal conditions?
- How long does it take?
- How much does it cost?
- Do you file insurance, and does it cover any of this treatment?
- Is there any research on the effectiveness of spinal decompression?
- What if it doesn’t work or I’m not a candidate for this kind of treatment?
- How is this different from standard traction or an inversion table?
What conditions does spinal decompression treat?
Spinal decompression is very effective at treating bulging discs, herniated discs, pinched nerves, sciatica, radiating arm pain, headaches, and facet syndrome.
What will I feel?
For your neck, you will be lying comfortably on your back with a harness strapped to your head and neck.
For your low back, you will be lying comfortably on your back with a set of nicely padded straps snug around your waist and another set around your lower chest.
The computerized system will slowly pull on this unit just a few pounds. It holds it there for about 30 seconds. Your body, in essence, says, “Well, that’s gentle,” so the muscles around your spine are able to relax. Then it pulls a little more, then a little more, until it gets it up to the full amount of pull. At this point, it will hold it there for about 30 seconds, then drops it down to about half that pull for another 20 seconds; back up for 30 and down for 20, for a total of about 12-15 minutes.
How does spinal decompression work?
The pumping action described above does two amazing things:
- As the spinal decompression table pulls on your spine, it gently separates the vertebrae from each other, creating a vacuum inside the discs that we are targeting. This vacuum begins to suck the bulges or herniations back into the inside of the disc, and off of your nerve root. It happens only microscopically each time, but cumulatively the results are quite dramatic.
- Also, this pumping action pumps nutrient-rich fluids from the outside of the discs to the inside. These nutrients enable the torn and degenerated disc fibers to begin to heal back up.
Only a few years ago, it was thought that once a disc was degenerated, there was nothing you could do. Now we routinely see discs gain one to two millimeters of sustained increased disc height. While this may not seem like much, it can make all the difference in the world for your nerves.
Does spinal decompression work for all spinal conditions?
No. But it is effective in 85-90% of cases we accept in our office. We’ve treated about 1000 cases, many of these patients having both neck and low back problems.
Typically very good improvements:
- Chronic neck pain
- Chronic low back pain
Typically dramatic improvements:
- Sciatica (pain radiating down one or both legs)
- Radiating neck pain (typically down one or both arms, into the chest, and/or into the upper and middle back)
Typically tough cases with 20-50% improvement:
- Spinal stenosis caused by significant bone spurring
How long does it take?
Every patient is different and has a treatment plan tailored specifically to his or her condition. In general, the total treatment ranges from two to four months and may include from 15-35 visits, more frequently in the beginning and tapering off as your spine begins to stabilize. Usually you will be in the office for about 30 minutes, though cases which involve both neck and low back, or which require rehab exercises or other therapies, may have you in here for up to an hour. We can refer you to a fabulous massage therapists.
How much does it cost?
Again, there is a broad range depending on what your condition requires. Generally a total might come to between $2000-5000. We offer a broad range of payment plans to fit your budget, and we accept all major credit cards.
Do you file insurance, and does it cover any of this treatment?
We will be happy to verify your insurance and to file it for you. Most all insurances pay at least a significant portion of this treatment. You will be presented with payment options for whatever they tell us your portion would be, rather than having to pay it all out of pocket and seek reimbursement yourself from your insurance company. We have many patients who get treatment here even when we are out of network with their specific insurance, because they want the benefit of experience and what many patients call “the nicest chiropractic clinic in town”, both in terms of the physical appearance of the office and the friendliness and caring of all of the staff.
Is there any research on the effectiveness of spinal decompression?
Absolutely! There are many 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. LCD is up to 70% successful, but studies on spinal decompression indicate between a 71%-90% success rate with one study reporting an immediate resolution of symptoms in 86% of the participants involved.
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 immediate 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% 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 Anaesthesiology 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 may be the only effective therapy for some 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%.
What if it doesn’t work or I’m not a candidate for this kind of treatment?
We work closely with the best health care professionals here in Tarrant County. Sometimes patients have waited too long before they found out about spinal decompression and may no longer be candidates for treatment here. For some conditions we refer to acupuncturists, for others to minimally invasive surgical procedures or even full-blown spinal fusion surgeries. Arlington, Texas is home to some of the top neuro and orthopedic surgeons in the country, and we have good working relations with almost all of them. Of course, surgery should always be a last resort (any good surgeon will tell you that).
How is this different from standard traction or an inversion table?
Traction has been around for thousands of years, but with very limited results. Traction does basically the same thing, but instead of gradually increasing the pull and gently pumping the discs, traction pulls all at once, quite strongly, and holds steady for an extended period. If the patient doesn’t start out with much pain or muscle tightness, then traction or an inversion table could feel good. However, research shows that any significant disc condition is going to have moderate to severe guarding surrounding the injured area, and that often this guarding will cause an increase in the pressure on the disc when subjected to traction.
I have heard of other tables claiming to be “the only true spinal decompression” or the only FDA-approved spinal decompression. Is this true?
Ask for their documentation. The FDA “clears” medical equipment; it doesn’t approve it. Also, the FDA makes no distinction between any of the spinal decompression machines.