Research on the pros and cons of spinal decompression therapy. Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy is a treatment that uses a pulling force on the spine to relieve pressure on the discs and vertebrae. It is used to treat a variety of common causes of back or neck pain, such as a herniated discs, bulging discs, spinal stenosis, degenerated discs, facet syndrome, or sciatica/leg pain.
Question: When do you use spinal decompression? When do you not use it?
We use spinal decompression mostly for patients that tried chiropractic care, physical therapy, had epidurals, and previous back surgeries with little results. We also consider spinal decompression when a patient presents us with a recent MRI that confirms herniated discs causing nerve pressure. It works particularly well for patients that suffer with chronic back pain, sciatica and spinal stenosis. The patient age range varies widely from 20-90 years of age. We do not use spinal decompression when a patient is either pregnant or has a metal implantation in their spine.
What results do you typically see from spinal decompression treatment? How do you measure the results?
Results vary depending on the severity of the condition. Obviously the patient is looking for both a reduction of pain and the ability to return to their daily life and activities. We usually have patients feeling better by visit number five or six. Patients usually have complete relief from their symptoms when they are on the table being decompressed. There have been patients that did not notice any improvement until after we completed the protocol.
When a patient has an MRI, one objective finding is to do a comparative study to see if there has been any reduction in the size of the disc herniation.
Each individual may have different results. Some notice a difference within their first five to six treatments and others will find improvements after 20 visits.
Pros and Cons of Spinal Decompression Therapy
The pros of spinal decompression for the patient are that it is a non-surgical and non-drug approach. In addition, spinal decompression is extremely safe with little chance of hurting a patient. In fact, most patients fall asleep during spinal decompression treatments. Spinal decompression addresses the underlying structural issue that is causing a patient’s pain and dysfunction and is the most direct way to treat a problem.
A con may be that treatment is out of the price range for some insurance plans and they will not pick up the cost of treatment.
The main cons to consider are costs of the initial machine, the ongoing maintenance that is needed to keep it in running condition and the required insurance. The machine also takes up room. In addition, it can take time to educate a patient on spinal decompression, which increases the amount of time one spends in a consultation.
Before you incorporate spinal decompression, do a cost analysis. Don’t assume others are making money. It’s a competitive market and it takes time to get results. You may not get great results initially. Clinics and demographics of your area may also play a role. For example, pro athletes and golfers may already have spinal decompression in their sports clinic.
Alternatives to Spinal Decompression Therapy
A good alternative might be inversion table at home if a patient can get into that position.