What is Decompression Therapy?
Briefly, Non-surgical spinal decompression (NSSD) or inter-discal decompression (IDD) is a non-invasive treatment for bulging and or herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, facet syndrome, and spinal stenosis. Patients who have these problems will tell you they can be responsible for some of the worst back and leg pain, neck and arm pain, sometimes both, and severe headaches. Under the care of a well-trained decompression doctor these types of spine problems can be corrected permanently.
It starts with the technology. You see a true decompression table, first developed in 1991, is a combination of a computer that is programed to guide the application of a stretch to your spine in a way that keeps your back very relaxed, thus creating a drop in pressure inside the disc. Only when that occurs will the disc actually draw in if it’s herniated or bulging or suck in moisture from the vertebra above and below it if it’s degenerated. To do that reliably the table has to have a targeting mechanism that can focus in on the proper disc. And the table has to have a sophisticated servo-motor that applies a very smooth and nimble stretch so that the back muscles don’t spasm. The newest generation of decompression tables are very comfortable and effective, the Axiom DRX-9000 is one of these. Traction tables can’t do this, that’s why traction isn’t effective.
There are pitfalls the careful patient needs to avoid here. First, doctors who don’t understand this will tell you decompression won’t help them because they think decompression is just another word for traction. Second the unaware doctor, who has been misled by an unscrupulous manufacturer of traction tables, who calls their traction table a decompression table. That’s why I use the DRX-9000, one of a few true decompression tables.
A complete decompression therapy program also requires a knowledgeable doctor and staff who can design a program with therapies, nutrition and guided rehab so your back can heal completely and you have permanent improvement.
Decompression therapy is more than just a table, it’s a program of care that creates and sustains the conditions for your back or neck to heal completely and lays a foundation for long lasting improvement with back school exercises. With a well-designed program your spine will heal fast and you will learn how to keep yourself healthy for the long haul. That’s what we do in my clinic, but that’s me, I set a very high standard and no one else in the tri-state area comes close to our high success rate.
Non-surgical decompression is an excellent solution for herniated discs. A disc is herniated when its outer fibers called the annulus fibrosis are torn. When this happens the jelly inner part called the nucleus pulposis oozes out under pressure. If it hits the nerve it causes shooting pain down the leg or out into the arm. There are several classifications of herniation to express the severity of the problem. Unfortunately there isn’t a standard classification system adopted by all spine doctors and radiologists. So sometimes you hear terms like “ruptured discs” when referring to this problem. For this reason I always read my patients’ MRI’s or CAT scans myself, I don’t just go off the radiologists report. To be the most effective I find I have to know exactly what we’re dealing with. Knowing how badly a disc is torn is critical for deciding how much treatment to recommend.
Bulging discs may not be as hard to fix. But often the clinical presentation is the same, severe back pain or neck pain with leg pain or arm pain. Pain is not always a good indicator of how bad the problem is especially in reverse. Sometimes people with a high pain threshold and a high pain tolerance don’t complain of much pain on a 0 to 10 pain scale. Because they don’t register pain sensation much and can easily ignore it when they do, they end up doing a lot of damage to their spines before they take any action. Bulging discs will start off with just back pain, usually centralized in the spine. When the disc starts breaking down on the inside at first there’s no pain because the inner part of the annulus fibrosis is insensitive to pain. But when pressure in the spine pushes the nucleus out to the outer third of the annulus where there are pain fibers the back starts to hurt. If the disc is weak in one area and it bulges focally it can hit a nerve root and cause radiating pain, numbness and tingling called radiculopathy. Bulging discs are more common than herniated discs.
Smashed discs, squashed discs, whatever you call them it’s a serious life limiting problem. If you want to get off muscle relaxers and pain meds, avoid surgery or a life of disability non-surgical spinal decompression may be your solution.