– Herniated discs (where part of the disk is pinching a nerve), – Sciatica (damaged sciatic nerve), bulging disks (when a cushion between vertebrae bulges out), – Degenerative discs (When the cushion between disks starts wearing out), – Spinal Stenosis (The narrowing of spaces in your spine due to bone spurs.) These conditions can be caused by injury, birth defect, or simple wear and tear of the body as we age.
Listed below are some of the best and most highly recommended spinal decompression treatments that can help you feel better and get you back into a more active lifestyle.
When it comes to back pain, doctors will usually choose to send you in for easier, non-surgical/non-invasive treatments first. These treatments allow you to return to your daily routine and schedule fairly quickly.
Spinal traction has shown the highest success rates of all the non-surgical treatments. For this treatment, your healthcare provider uses pulleys, weights and a traction table to gently and carefully manipulate and stretch your spine, which changes the force and position of the spine. This change takes pressure off the spinal disks, which are gel-like cushions between the bones in your spine, by creating negative pressure in the disc.
As a result, bulging or herniated disks will hopefully retract and fall back into their correct place, taking pressure off nerves and other structures in your spine. As an added benefit, this also helps promote the movement of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids into the disks so they can heal better.
The doctor fits you with a harness around your pelvis and another around your trunk. You either lie face down or face up on a computer-controlled table. The doctor operates the computer, customizing treatment to your specific needs. Your healthcare provider may also use an inversion table, which is a type of traction that uses gravity. In all non-surgical treatments, you are fully clothed. The procedure takes around 30 to 45 minutes, and you may require 20 to 28 treatments over the course of five to seven weeks, depending on what’s causing the pain and its level of severity.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is another non-invasive spinal decompression treatment that has achieved a moderate level of success. It involves the use of low voltage electrical charges from a small device that is placed on the surface of your skin. The device is about the size of a typical smartphone. The TENS unit delivers the electrical currents via electrodes to affected nerves or nearby trigger points. These charges help muscles to relax and block nerve pain.
The TENS treatment works in two ways. First, the electric current stimulates nerve cells, which blocks the transmission of pain signals, thereby reducing aches and pains. Second, all that nerve stimulation raises the level of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-killing chemical. The endorphins then block a lot of the pain, bringing quick and lasting relief.
If non-invasive treatments don’t seem to be working well and you are not feeling any improvement, then your doctor will turn to surgical treatments.
In this procedure, your surgeon removes the small part of the disk that’s pinching the nearby nerve, which takes pressure off of it and relieves pain. After your surgery, you may stay in the hospital for up to five days. A full recovery can take months, depending on the type of surgery you had. Physical therapy can help you speed up recovery time, regain strength, movement and nerve sensation.
Osteophytes, or bone spurs, are outgrowths of bone that often happen to people of senior age, but they can occur in younger adults as well. Luckily, they can be surgically removed safely. Spurs gradually develop and grow off a bone over time, usually near joints (where two or more bones meet). People with osteoarthritis are at higher risk of developing spinal bone spurs.
Overall however, joint damage from OA is the leading cause of bone spurs. OA is a breakdown of cartilage — the firm, flexible tissue that cushions bones and allows joints to move more easily. OA develops as we age or after damage, like excessive exercise or a sports injury. As the body tries to repair cartilage, it creates new bone material, which becomes osteophytes.
Although spinal decompression treatments are generally considered safe and effective, it’s important to be aware and understand that, just like any other medication, procedure or treatment, there are some possible risks. Don’t hesitate to inquire and discuss these risks with your surgeon or primary healthcare provider beforehand.
Additionally, you may be leaning towards a specific treatment, but it may not suit your personal case. Your doctor will direct you in the right direction and send you to a treatment that’s safest and best for you.
Lastly, during or after your treatment, there are several at-home therapies that you can try to boost the effectiveness of the treatment. YouTube is a great place to watch videos and learn about various exercises and changes in daily habits that can be very helpful.