What is Spinal Decompression?

Back pain is pretty common these days especially with all of the desk jobs and long hours sitting. We have begun to be more sedentary than we ever were before.

If you have had chronic back pain you may have considered spinal decompression therapy. There is surgical and non-surgical decompression. Lets look at the advantages and risk of each option.

What is Non-surgical Decompression:
Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression is a form of traction that is low force stretching of the spine which opens up the disc space and gets more blood and spinal fluid to the discs.  This will help get the proper nutrients providing growth and healing.  This is really great for bulging discs or herniations.  Taking the stress out of the disk will allow the bulge or herniation to retract a bit and not put so much pressure one the spinal cord.  It is normally not painful and patients normally feel more relaxed and lighter after the treatment.

This is how it works:
A harness is placed on two places on the body to provide stretching of the spine. You can either be on your stomach or back. The doctor will then customize a treatment plan on a computer for a specific treatment time. Treatment times can be from 30 to 45 minutes. Depending on the severity of symptoms and type of ailment, a patient may need 20-30 treatments over a 5 to 7 week time frame.

When is it not okay to have this procedure?
1. During pregnancy
2. Fractures
3. Tumors
4. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
5. Fusions of the spine

If you do decide to have Spinal Decompression Surgery (if other measures have not worked out), there are different types that may be considered.

• Diskectomy: A portion of the disk is removed when it is putting pressure on the nerves or spinal cord
• Laminectomy: Removal of the bone to increase the spinal canal. This can be a very large removal or a small removal. Be sure to let your surgeon know you would like it to be as minimal as possible. You don’t want your full spinal cord exposed without protection, that is what the bones are for.
• Foraminotomy/foreinectomy: Removal of bone and tissue around the foramina to expand the space between the bones and the nerve roots.
• Osteophyte removal: These are bone spurs that can be removed to make sure it doesn’t impinge on the nerves or spinal cord.

What can happen after the surgery?
• Infections to the spinal and surgical entry area
• Bleeding (inside or outside)
• Blood clots can occur
• Anesthesia allergic reaction
• Nerve damage
• Tissue damage
• Paralysis
• Death

As you can see, surgery can be very dangerous and should only be considered as a LAST resort. Many people opt for surgery first and in many cases, it does not solve the symptoms at all and can create more problems to the area.

Always try other options like chiropractic and massage, they can help relieve inflammation that may be making the spinal canal smaller and relieve a lot of problems.