A Patient’s Guide to Decompression Therapy

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Decompression Therapy

Back and neck pain can be very disruptive to our everyday lives, costing us time at work, and enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures such as playing with our children.

Often, the pain is caused by disc compression. Our spines carry a heavy load over the days and months and years of our lives, so we have discs that sit between the vertebrae of our spine that act as cushions. But sometimes, due to injury, overuse or aging, our spines become compressed, squeezing the discs to the point they lose sponginess or even break, pressing on the nerves that run down through the spine.

Spinal compression can be debilitating and lead to irreversible nerve damage if not treated promptly. The good news is that spinal decompression therapy has proven to be effective in relieving the pain and other uncomfortable symptoms of this condition.

What are the Symptoms of Spinal Compression?

Because the nerves that run through the spine travel to our hands and feet, the symptoms of spinal compression aren’t always felt directly in the spine. While pain in the back or neck is a common symptom, the pain can radiate either through the shoulders and down the arms and even into the hands if the compression is to the cervical spine in the neck. The symptoms of compression in the lower or lumbar spine are often felt through the buttocks and hips and down the legs.

The symptoms can be tingling or numbness that travels down our arms or legs, a feeling like an electrical shock in the hands or feet, weakness in either the arms or legs and loss of bladder or bowel control. The pain begins typically as mild and increases in severity over time. It also changes with shifting positions of the body. Lying down, for example, might increase the pain.

Spinal decompression

How does Decompression Therapy Work?

Spinal decompression therapy gently stretches the spine, reducing the pressure on the nerves and relieving the pain that comes with it.

Decompression therapy can be applied either manually or with the use of a traction machine. With manual traction, your chiropractor will apply gentle force with their hands to stretch out the spinal joints.

Mechanical traction uses a machine in much the same way. The patient lies on his or her back, and the traction machine is either applied to the head and neck area if the compression is in the cervical spine or around the hips if the compression is in the lumbar spine.

How long the therapy lasts, and how many sessions a patient requires is different in each individual case.

What Conditions Does Spinal Decompression Therapy Help?

Spinal decompression therapy relieves not only pain in the neck and back but helps reduce symptoms such as nerve pain that is felt in the other parts of the body, like the hands. Decompression therapy helps improve blood flow to the muscles, nerves and joints, and mobility in the joints.

Among the conditions, spinal decompression is used to treat are herniated or bulging discs; scoliosis, which is a marked curve in the spine that increases over time; nerve pain or weakness; deteriorating changes in the spine such as spinal stenosis; and biomechanical joint stiffness in the spine.