What is Spinal Decompression Therapy?

Spinal Decompression Therapy is a non-surgical, therapy to relieve back pain and other problems associated with spinal disc injuries.
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.

Does Spinal Decompression Help Low Back Pain?

If you have low back pain, you probably understand how debilitating the condition may be. The symptoms that you feel coming from your low back can prevent you from sitting, walking, working, and enjoying recreational activities.
There are many different treatments and modalities available for your low back pain or sciatica. One such treatment that has become quite popular is spinal decompression.
Spinal decompression is a form of mechanical spinal traction. Spinal traction refers to the separation of the bones, joints, and discs of the back. It is theorized that separating the bones, joints, and discs in the spine relieves pressure on the nerves in the back and helps decrease pain, and thus, improve function.

Are There Risks Associated with Spinal Decompression?

A review of the published data for the use of spinal decompression reveals very little risk associated with treatment.

Does Spinal Decompression Help Low Back Pain?

The main theory behind spinal decompression is that providing traction to the compressed structures in the spine helps relieve pressure and pain. Claims have also been made that spinal decompression creates negative pressure in the discs of the spine, which helps to pull bulging discs back into place. A published study concludes that spinal decompression did lower the pressure in the discs while using decompression.

What Else Helps Relieve Low Back Pain?

While many treatments are available for your low back pain, the scientific data indicates that maintaining normal activity is a good treatment (grade of “A” — benefit demonstrated — in the 2001 PTJ review) for acute low back pain. Stretching exercises for your low back also received a grade of “A” for sub-acute and chronic low back pain.
Daniel, DM. Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy: does the scientific literature support efficacy claims made in the advertising media? Chiropr Osteopat. 2007 May; (15)7. (Published Online).
Martin, CW. Vertebral axial decompression for low back pain. 2005 Feb.
Ramos, G. Martin, W. Effects of vertebral axial decompression on intradiscal pressure. J Neurosurg. 1994 Sep;81(3):350-3.
Jurecki-Tiller, M. et al. Decompression therapy for the treatment of lumbosacral pain. 2007, Apr.

What is a Spinal Disc?

A spinal disc (also known as an intervertebral disc) is like a little cushion that sits between each pair of vertebrae. Its job is to absorb the shock that movement, wear and tear, impact, and your body weight have on your spine. Essentially, the disc is a spine protector.
The construction of a spinal disc can be compared to a jelly donut. In the center is the nucleus, a soft, malleable substance quite similar to the grape jelly in the center of a donut.
The outside of the disc is called the annulus fibrosus; it’s made of tough fibers that encase the jelly material. The annulus, as it is often called for short, encloses and protects the nucleus.
Just as the jelly in the center of the donut gets squished around when you handle or bite into the breaded portion, so does the nucleus adapt to the various types of pressures put on your discs by the movements of your spine.

Annular Tears and Herniated Discs

It’s possible to get tears and weakness in the annulus, which may lead to an injury known as a herniation. Annular tears or weaknesses may also lead to degenerating discs, which is a long-term process that results in significant changes in the spine. While traumatic incidents, such as car accidents, may certainly cause these fissures, often wear and tear from daily activities over time create enough damage to weaken or break fibers of the annulus. Aging and genetics also play a role in the integrity of the spinal discs.