Frequently Asked Questions

Spinal Decompression Therapy

What is Spinal Decompression Therapy?
Spinal Decompression Therapy is FDA approved and has a very high success rate for pain associated with herniated discs, sciatica, degenerative disc disease (spinal arthritis), spinal stenosis, cervical radiculopathy/cervical radiculitis……. even after failed surgery. It is a non-surgical, traction based therapy for the relief of back/ leg pain or neck/arm pain. During this procedure, we have the ability to cycle through distraction and relaxation phases and by proper positioning determination, a spinal disc can be isolated and placed under negative pressure, causing a vacuum effect within it, drawing it back from its herniated position and away from the nerve. If your condition is not discal and is secondary to arthritis, which can lead to spinal stenosis, we can change the parameters to focus on a more continuous shorter hold/relax phases, creating a “milking of the joints”. This will help to reduce inflammation and allow diffusion (absorption) of nutrients into the arthritic areas to lubricate and heal the irritated structures. 

How is Spinal Decompression Therapy different from regular traction?
Traction can be defined as a separation of two surfaces. Therefore, STD is a type of traction. However, the spine will not be “decompressed” unless the traction force is at or greater then 50lbs. Typical tractioning does not reach this level. The computer-controlled KDT system creates variations in the traction pull, allowing for spinal decompression and eliminating muscle guarding that is typical in conventional traction devices. The preprogrammed patterns for ramping up and down the amount of axial distraction, along with the rest/relaxation phase will allow for higher levels of decompression and intervertebral disc re-hydration.

Who can benefit from Spinal Decompression Therapy?
Anyone who has back pain or neck pain caused in whole or in part by a damaged, or herniated disc, arthritis and stenosis may be helped by spinal decompression therapy.  These conditions include herniated, protruding or bulging discs, spinal stenosis, spinal arthritis, sciatica or radiculopathy (pinched nerves).

Am I too old to receive benefit from Spinal Decompression Therapy?
While we would certainly be more cautious with our elderly patients, we have successfully treated patients with SDT well into their 70's. Chronological age is far less important than spinal health. A 90 year old may have a healthier spine than a 70 year old. Through our examination and imaging studies, we will be able to determine whether SDT is the treatment of choice. The take away is that age is irrelevant.

Do all decompression machines do the same thing?
Yes and no. All decompression tables have the ability to exert 50lbs. or more of axial traction and most can change the pull patterns (not necessarily customize), so as far as this is concerned the answer is “yes”, however this is as far as it goes. There is a lot more to successful patient outcomes than simply axial pull and pre-determined pull patterns. There is simply not a magic button that could be pressed that will correspond to the spinal level of pain. The fact is, not all decompression tables are created the same. Some of the differences include; having the ability to place the patient face down, face up or even lying on the side and fully customizable pull patterns, to name a few. It must be noted and emphasized that while the table is important, IT IS THE CLASSIFICATION BASED UPON THE DIAGNOSIS that will determine patient positioning, pull patterns and overall protocol. So, choose your doctor first, table second. 

Do patients receive therapy and rehabilitative exercises in addition to SDT?
Yes, to help reduce inflammation and to assist/speed up the healing process, we will often use ice, heat, electric muscle stimulation and/or ultrasound to the irritated structures. Chiropractic adjustments and specific spinal exercises will be done to strengthen and stabilize the spine.  

Do medical studies support the claims of SDT effectiveness?
Yes, see below:

"Eighty-six percent of ruptured intervertebral disc (RID) patients achieved 'good' (50-89% improvement) to 'excellent' (90-100% improvement) results with decompression. Sciatica and back pain were relieved. Of the facet arthrosis patients, 75% obtained 'good' to 'excellent' results with decompression."
C. Norman Shealy, MD, PhD, and Vera Borgmeyer, RN, MA. Decompression, Reduction, and Stabilization of the Lumbar Spine: A Cost-Effective Treatment for Lumbosacral Pain. American Journal of Pain  Management Vol. 7 No. 2 April 1997 

"Serial MRI of 20 patients treated with the decompression table shows in our study up to 90% reduction of subligamentous nucleus herniation in 10 of 14. Some rehydration occurs detected by T2 and proton density signal increase. Torn annulus repair is seen in all."
Eyerman, Edward MD. Simple pelvic traction gives inconsistent relief to herniated lumbar disc sufferers. Journal of Neuroimaging. Paper presented to the American Society of Neuroimaging, Orlando, Florida 2-26-98.  

"Distraction results in disc rehydration, stimulated extracellular matrix gene expression, and increased numbers of protein-expressing cells."
Guehring T, Omlor GW, Lorenz H, Engelleiter K, Richter W, Carstens C, Kroeber M. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Heidelberg, Germany. Disc distraction shows evidence of regenerative potential in degenerated intervertebral discs as evaluated by protein expression, magnetic resonance imaging, and messenger ribonucleic acid expression analysis. Spine. 2006 Jul 1;31(15):1658-65  

“Spinal Decompression Therapy allowed imbibition and complete reduction of the visualized herniation. SDT therapy provided an effective means of treatment for this patient's symptoms resulting from discal herniation(extrusion)with associated impingement of the adjacent nerve root. MR imaging proved to be a useful and non-invasive technique in monitoring the efficacy of decompression therapy as it applies to this case. Decompression of the spine proved to be superior to the other forms of conservative care when applied to our patient. The patients' results were both subjectively favorable and objectively quantified."
Treatment of L5-S1 Extruded Disc Herniation Using DRX-9000 Spinal Decompression Unit: Case Report. Terry R.Yochum DC,DACBR,Fellow,ACCR, andChad J.Maola D.C. Chiropractic Economics,Vol53:Issue2 

What do patients have to say about Spinal Decompression Therapy treatment?
Spinal Decompression Patient Testimonials



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