Dr. Andrea Luise is Board Certified in Spinal Decompression, one of an elite group of doctors who have taken and passed the national certification program for spinal decompression.
What is Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression?
It is a non-surgical treatment that involves gently stretching the spine to change the force and position of the spine and intervertebral discs, without inducing muscle spasm. Discs are the cushions located between spinal segments and they provide support between the vertebrae and act as shock absorbers for the spine. They are made of a tough exterior (annulous fibrosis) and a gel like interior (nucleus pulposus). People have problems (disc bulges and herniations) when the nucleus starts to move through the outer fibers of the disc. By the time there is a bulge or herniation, the disc has been compromised for some time.
According to WebMD, non-surgical spinal decompression is a type of motorized traction that may help relieve back pain. Spinal decompression works by gently stretching the spine. That changes the force and position of the spine. This change takes pressure off the spinal discs, which are gel-like cushions between the bones in your spine, by creating negative pressure in the disc. As a result, bulging or herniated discs may retract, taking pressure off nerves and other structures in your spine. This in turn, helps promote movement of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids into the discs so they can heal.
Doctors have used nonsurgical spinal decompression to treat:
- Back Pain
- Neck Pain
- Sciatica – pain, weakness, or tingling that extends down the leg
- Bulging or herniated discs or degenerative disc disease
- Worn spinal joints (called posterior facet syndrome)
- Injured or diseased spinal nerve roots
Are there conditions where Spinal Decompression is not recommended?
Spinal decompression therapy is not suggested for pregnant women, or patients who have severe osteoporosis, severe obesity or severe nerve damage. It is not recommended for patients over 80. Spinal surgery with instrumentation (screws and metal plates or “cages”) is also contraindicated. Surgery to the discs without fusion or fusion using bony replacement is not contraindicated. However, every patient is evaluated on an individual basis.
What is the difference between decompression and traction?
The simplest answer is that traction is static, so that it pulls the spine open and stays in that position. Traction fails in many cases because it causes muscular stretch receptors to fire, which then cause para-spinal muscles to contract, often resulting in a spasm. On the other hand, genuine decompression is achieved by gradual and calculated increases of distraction forces to spinal structures, utilizing various degrees of distraction forces. This is done in a pattern of stretching and relaxing the spinal column via a computerized pull system. The system continuously monitors spinal resistance and adjusts distraction forces accordingly. A typical treatment will last 25-40 minutes with 10-15 distraction/relaxation cycles included.
Genuine decompression also involves the use of a special pelvic harness or cervical unit that supports the spine during therapy. Negative pressure within the disc is maintained throughout the treatment session. With genuine decompression, the pressure within the disc space can actually be lowered. This creates a negative pressure (a vacuum effect) within the disc, which allows the disc to retract to its proper position.
What Results Can I Expect?
In clinical studies, 86% of patients reported relief of back pain with spinal decompression. Within the past five years, some private practice clinicians have reported success rates as high as 90%. Relief may come as early as 3 sessions, although the total healing process occurs over the course of 20-24 sessions.
How can I get started?
Dr. Andrea offers a complimentary consultation to determine if this treatment is right for you. If imaging is needed, she will refer out for a spinal MRI to determine the specific location and severity of the disc condition. If you’ve already had an MRI done, she can review the images or the report to assess further treatment. She will then give her recommendations on a customized treatment plan to correct the issue at hand or refer you to the appropriate physician.