Two pilot studies show that a new non-surgical spinal decompression treatment has a beneficial effect on lower back pain, and that it seems to benefit the morphology of the spine by increasing disc height. One study, authored by Dr. John Leslie of the Mayo Clinic and others, found that clinical use of a spinal decompression system led to an 88.9 percent reduction in pain scores over the course of six weeks, as well as improvement in Oswestry disability scores and a drop in consumption of pain medications.
In the other study, CT scans of the lumbar spine were taken of patients before and after treatment on a spinal decompression system. They showed possible beneficial anatomical changes associated with the treatment.
Dr. Christian Apfel, lead author and associate professor of anesthesiology and perioperative care at the University of California at San Francisco, says, "A significant reduction in chronic LBP [lower back pain] after non-invasive spinal decompression correlated with an increase in disc height." Control groups to determine the placebo effect and the extent of spontaneous improvement were not included in the Leslie study.
Thus, to gather definitive data on the effectiveness of a spinal decompression system, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind studies must be undertaken - and for longer periods of time. This study was partially funded by Axiom Worldwide. A similar controlled, randomized trial is called for to prove that an increase in disc height leads to pain amelioration
Question: What is Spinal Decompression Therapy?
Spinal Decompression Therapy is a non-surgical, non-chiropractic therapy to relieve back pain and other problems associated with spinal disc injuries.
Answer: Bulging discs, herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, pinched nerves, sciatica, and arm pain or leg pain can often be attributed to your spine asserting pressure on your discs. Poor posture, bad body mechanics, repetitive stress and acute injury can cause your vertebrae to compress your discs or to slip out of alignment which then applies pressure to your discs.
Compressed discs lead to two major problems: a bulge or herniation pressing on a nerve; and brittleness of the disc. The problem is often perpetuated because the compressed disc restricts the flow of nutrients to itself which is needed to heal.
Traditional corrective treatments include surgery or chiropractic adjustment. Spinal Decompression Therapy is an alternative FDA approved treatment option that has shown very good results.
Spinal Decompression Treatment is non-invasive and provides gentle decompression of the disc through the use of a decompression table. You are strapped to the table so that as it moves it applies a distraction force to the targeted area of the spine (the compressed disc). A computer controls the distraction force which is applied in between periods of relaxation. This gently pulls the spine apart elongating it and creating a small vacuum between the vertebrae which pulls the disc back into shape.
Much like a repetitive stress injury the decompression works in very minute increments. But over time that adds up and lets the disc reshape itself, heal and get the proper flow of nutrients going to fight off brittleness and future injuries.
This FDA approved technology relieves pain by enlarging the space between the discs. The negative pressure of decompression releases pressure that builds on to the disc and nerves, allowing the herniated and bulging disc to eventually go back into normal position. Decompression is the only treatment that is truly most effective for severe cases of herniation, degeneration, arthritis, stenosis and pressure on the nerve root. According to a clinical study performed by the Orthopedic Technological Review in 2004, said that 86% of all cases experienced spinal pain relief with disc decompression.
What is the difference between decompression and traction?
Many clinicians specializing in lumbar spine pathology have criticized traditional traction. Traction fails in many cases because it causes muscular stretch receptors to fire, which then cause para-spinal muscles to contract. This muscular response actually causes an increase in intradiscal pressure. 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.
A highly specialized computer must modulate the application of distraction forces in order to achieve the ideal effect. The system uses applies a gentle, curved angle pull which yields far greater treatment results that a less comfortable, sharp angle pull. Distraction must be offset by cycles of partial relaxation.
The system continuously monitors spinal resistance and adjusts distraction forces accordingly. A specific lumbar segment can be targeted for treatment by changing the angle of distraction. This patented technique of decompression may prevent muscle spasm and patient guarding. Constant activity monitoring takes place at a rate of 10,000 times per second, making adjustments not perceived by the eye as many as 20 times per second via its fractional metering and monitoring system.
Genuine decompression also involves the use of a special pelvic harness that supports the lumbar 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 to about -150 mmHg. As a result, the damaged disc will be rehydrated with nutrients and oxygen.
Isn�t decompression just a fancy name for a traction machine?
No. There is a big different between traction, distraction and decompression. Traction has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The problem with traction as it is known today is that it is not always beneficial. In 1998, the Scientific American rated traction to be of little or no value in the examination of efficacious therapies for lower back pain. This finding is consistent with many studies that report traction can often times signal a nociceptive splinting response and put a patient�s back muscles in spasm, resisting any attempts to effect a change on the disc proper.
Distraction, a term used to describe a flexion distraction technique, attempts to reposition the spine from the offending lesion. This technique has been shown to be very effective, even though potentially damaging to the person performing the technique and largely dependent on the skill of the technician. Like traction, distraction procedures are limited in the ability to reduce the intradiscal pressure, or produce a negative pressure within the disc imbibing fluid, nutrients and creating an environment for repair.
Decompression therefore is an event - a combination of restraint, angle position and equipment engineering. One can experience traction without decompression, but not decompression without traction. Traction is a machine - Decompression is an event.
What Result I Expect?
Many patients with lower back syndromes may experience pain relief as early as the third treatment session. Comparison of pre-treatment MRI�s with post-treatment MRI�s has shown a 50% reduction in the size and extent of herniation. In clinical studies, 86% of patients reported relief of back pain with the our system. Within the past five years, some private practice clinicians have reported success rates as high as 90%.
What Time Commitments Are Required By Patients?
Each treatment session averages 25 to 30 minutes in duration (research has established that optimum results are achieved with sessions that incorporate 10 to 15 decompression/relaxation cycles). On average, one daily session for 20-30 treatments is necessary for patient self-healing to occur.
Herniated discs generally respond within 20 sessions, while patients with degenerated discs may need ongoing therapy at regulated intervals to remain pain free. Still other patients, due to lifestyle or occupation, may also require maintenance therapy. Patients with posterior facet syndromes may achieve complete remission with 10 or fewer sessions. Research has demonstrated that most patients achieve full remission from pain after the initial treatment regimen.
What is the typical diagnosis?
Since non-specific low back pain and cervical pain generally encompass a myriad of mechanical failures, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissue that encroach or produce pressure on the nerves, the term intervertebral disc syndrome can be used. This diagnosis does not necessarily require (although recommended) an MRI to confirm the presence of a disc involvement
Who can benefit from using Disc Decompression Therapy?
The following would be inclusion criteria for the Decompression Therapy (1) Pain due to herniated and bulging lumbar discs that is more than four weeks old; (2) Recurrent pain from a failed back surgery that is more than six months old; (3) Persistent pain from degenerated discs not responding to four weeks of therapy; (4) Patients available for four weeks of treatment protocol; and (5) Patient at least 18 years of age.
These indications are ideal candidates for enrollment into our program and have the potential of achieving quality outcomes in the treatment of their back pain: (1) Nerve Compression; (2) Lumbar Disorders; (3) Lumbar Strains; (4) Sciatic Neuralgia; (5) Herniated Discs; (6) Injury of the Lumbar Nerve Root; (7) Degenerative Discs; (8) Spinal Arthritis; (9) Low Back Pain w/ or w/o Sciatica; (10) Degenerative Joint Disease; (11) Myofasctois Syndrome; (12) Disuse Atrophy; (13) Lumbar Instability; (14) Acute Low Back Pain; and (15) Post-Surgical Low Back Pain.
Lastly, the system should be utilized with patients with low back pain, with or without radiculopathy who have failed conventional therapy (physiotherapy and chiropractic) and who are considering surgery. Surgery should only be considered following a reasonable trial of Decompression therapy protocols.
What conditions are contraindicated?
Patients with the following problems or symptoms are usually excluded from using the Spinal Decompresion therapy: Pregnancy, Prior lumbar surgical fusion, Metastatic cancer, Severe osteoporosis, Spondylolisthesis, Compression fracture of lumbar spine below L-1, Pars defect, Aortic aneurysm, Pelvic or abdominal cancer, Disc space infections, Severe peripheral neuropathy, Hemiplegia, paraplegia, or cognitive dysfunction, Cauda Equina syndrome, Tumors, osteod osteoma, multiple myeloma, osteosarcoma, Infection, osteomyelitis, meningitis, virus, and HNP (sequestered/free floating fragment).
How long is each session and what is the treatment protocol?
Each session on the Decompression equipment is approximately 25-40 minutes long (45 minute sessions include set-up and take-off), accompanied by 15 minutes of stimulation, heat packs and manipulation. The patient comes for 20-30 visits over a 4-6 week period. The doctor will provide a complete copy of the Spinal decompression treatment protocol upon request.
How long before a patient experiences change?
Often times a patient experiences some relief within the first few (3-7) treatments. Usually by the 12th to 15th treatment all patients have reported some remission of symptoms. Patients not showing significant improvement by the 15th to 18th session may be referred for further diagnostic evaluation.
Does Decompression Therapy work for everyone?
Eighty-to-ninety percent of patients who have been properly selected and comply with the Spinal Disc Decompression protocol will have good-to-excellent outcomes. Patient�s conditions that do not respond quickly to the therapy are often unable to be helped by anything quickly. Patients vary in age, sex and body morphology and may require counseling in weight loss, nutrition and other lifestyle changes.
Spinal decompression is a procedure which is designed to take pressure off the spine, encouraging the spine to heal from conditions which are related to pressure. There are two major types of spinal decompression: surgical, and non-surgical, sometimes also called mechanical. Procedures to relive pressure vary greatly in effectiveness, depending on the individual patient, the condition, and the skill of the health care provider, and spinal decompression is not for everyone
In the case of surgical spinal decompression, a surgeon goes into the spine directly to remove pressure from things like herniated discs. The relief of pressure is designed to help the herniated material slip back into place, and to reduce strain on the back while it heals. For people with extreme pain caused by spinal pressure, spinaldecompression surgery can be beneficial, reducing or eliminating pain, depending on the condition.
Non-surgical spinal decompression involves gently stretching and repositioning the spine to promote the relief of pressure. In the case of herniation, non-surgical decompression is supposed to create a vacuum which sucks herniated material back into place, and in other conditions, non-surgical spinal decompression releases strain on the spine, which can in turn release pinched nerves and treat conditions like facet joint syndrome, degenerative disc disease, and other conditions which cause back pain, numbness, and tingling.
As a general rule, spinal decompression is only really effective for lumbar back pain and neck pain. For the center of the spinal cord, other treatments will be needed. Lumbar pain in particular can be extremely debilitating, and it is also quite common, as many professions put strain and stress on the lower back. For people who suffer from chronic pain, the appeal of a procedure which might reduce the pain is certainly understandable.
Before undergoing spinal decompression of either type, you should talk to your physician. Back pain can be extremely challenging to treat, and it is important to opt for the best treatment. In the best case scenario, spinal decompression will alleviate back pain, but it could also be ineffective, or it could exacerbate existing pain. Make sure that the provider of the procedure is fully licensed and experienced, and be sure to ask for an honest assessment of the potential outcome. You may also want to consider asking for patient recommendations, to give you a chance to talk with people who have experienced the procedure.
SIMPLE PELVIC TRACTION GIVES INCONSISTENT RELIEF TO HERNIATED LUMBAR DISC SUFFERERS.
EDWARD L. EYERMAN, MD
Journal of Neuroimaging June 1998
A new decompression table system applying fifteen 60 second tractions of just over one half body weight in twenty one-half hour sessions was reported to give good or excellent relief of sciatic and back pain in 86% of 14 patients with herniated discs and 75% of patients with facet joint arthrosis. (Shealy, C.N.,Borgmeyer, V., AMJ. Pain Management 1997,7:63-65).