When you first hear the term, “spinal decompression therapy”, you may easily confuse it with the term “spinal decompression”. There is a big difference. Spinal decompression is a medical term that is used by medical doctors for a type of surgery that relieves the compression on the spinal cord. Spinal decompression therapy is the term for non-surgical treatment of the same medical condition.
The therapy is used for conditions such as disc herniation, degeneration of the disc, foraminal stenosis, back and neck pain where compression of nerves is part of the pathology.
Spinal decompression therapy involves a harness that fits around the pelvis for the lumbar spine if there is back pain, and around the head if there is neck pain. The harness is connected to a computer that carefully monitors the pressure applied to the harness in a pulling sensation. This pulling creates a negative pressure in the disc, which can essentially pull the disc herniation back towards the spinal cord. The mechanism works on a simple physics principle.
Spinal decompression therapy takes about 30 minutes. The treatment is repeated two or three times in a week, and continues over several weeks until healing is complete. The method has a high success rate, however no method of healing is ever 100% successful. For example, if a patient’s spinal stenosis has occurred for an extended period of time and the amount of compression has been great, it’s possible that no type of treatment can recover the function that has been lost.
This method of healing has a big following and an association has even been formed for its followers.
Spinal decompression exercises
Part of your healing for disc herniation or stenosis will usually include rehabilitation exercises. The types of exercises depend on what type of disc herniation you have. For example, the disc may protrude anteriorly, or in the front of the vertebrae. When this happens, the exercises will not include the action of bending forward, as this motion would increase the pressure on the already herniated disc. The pain you would feel would increase greatly as would any additional symptoms you have been feeling, such as numbness, pins and needle sensations, hot and cold sensations, and muscle weakness.
Thus, the proper exercises for spinal decompression therapy would be exercises that focus on you extending your back, which means bending backwards.
Stretching as high as you can reach is a type of spinal decompression therapy exercise that would fall into this category.
If you had a disc herniation that is located posteriorly, or in the back of the vertebrae, the exercises would be different. If you lean backwards, you would feel more pain and symptoms because this motion would put more pressure on the disc herniation. In this case, the proper exercises for spinal decompression therapy would be ones that allow you to bend forward. The act of bending forward would take pressure off the herniated disc.
MacKenzie exercises would generally fall into this category of exercises for spinal decompression therapy.
Spinal decompression at home
For many years, people have used inversion therapy devices at home that can take the pressure off herniated discs and other spinal problems such as degenerative discs, spinal stenosis, and even facet disorders. Inversion therapy devices allow you to remove the forces of gravity on your spine and turn you upside down.
Many devices appear to be a table that you lie on and then flip a lever that allows the device to flip you upside down slowly. You may hang at a 60-degree angle and not be at a 90 degree angle to the floor when first starting the spinal decompression therapy at home. This allows you to get used to the feeling of hanging upside down.
As you hang upside down the spinal cord and vertebrae are tractioned out with your own body weight. In normal gravity situations where a person walks and sits and stands, the discs receive very little nutrients until you sleep at night. However inversion therapy allows you to “feed” the discs more nutrients because the blood circulation to them increases dramatically. The added nutrients contribute to faster healing, as all parts of the body won’t heal unless they get the nutrients they need to rebuild themselves.
Disc herniation and stenosis of the spine don’t have to mean you will be disabled for life. As you can see, there are many options now. Spinal decompression surgery is always an option, but it should be an option reserved for last, as all surgical procedures carry many risks with them. Spinal decompression therapy performed by health practitioners is good, but if it’s only done three times a week, it’s possible you could be undoing the benefits by improper movements and activities while you’re home and moving around in daily life. This is why it’s a good idea to include the exercises and even the inversion therapy in your treatment plan.
When you have a disc herniation, it’s imperative to do everything you can do in your own power to heal. Spinal decompression therapy may be your answer.
Filed under: Spinal Stenosis