The first experience I had with a pinched nerve, I was in my twenties and had no idea where it came from. It felt like someone had run me through with a dagger in my upper chest, and I was surely dying. I went to the clinic and they took a chest x-ray. I expected them to come back and tell me I had a major growth in my lung and only a matter of weeks till I died. At the time I hurt so bad, it would have been a good offer.
Well, the results were nadda, zip, zero. No growth, no dagger and no holes in anything. The doctor explained to me that I had probably “pinched a nerve” between my ribs. For the life of me it made no sense at all, because I could not recall doing anything that would have caused it.
I expected him to put me in the hospital and prescribe heavy doses of Morphine. What I got was, “go home, take an aspirin, and in a few weeks you will feel better”. I wanted to throw apples at him, but followed his advice and in a few long weeks felt my normal self once more.
It was a few years later, still in my twenties that I injured my back. I took a running jump at a huge air cushion off the patio deck and missed it clean. Landed right on my tail bone and once again thought I was dying. With a few more bottles of beer, the pain passed in a couple hours and I was sore for a few days after. However…
Since that day I have had back problems. At first it was every couple of years I would throw my back out and be laid up for a few days. But, as I grew older, the episodes became more frequent, and lasted longer. Finally, it wasn’t a matter of lasting longer, but one of forever.
Today, I have two ruptured discs, disc degeneration, stenosis and mobility issues as a result. Over the years, I have tried everything to keep me off of the operating table. Until recently the only thing that gave me any relief to speak of was pain pills and anti inflammatories. These of course threat they symptoms and not the root problem, but back surgery is the last thing anyone should try. The reason I say that is the alarming rate of failed back surgeries and the poor definition of successful ones. When the doctors can only offer you a 50/50 chance of improvement, and that improvement may not be substantial, you have to stop and think. What if it gets worse?
For thirty years I have avoided going to a Chiropractor. Perhaps it was foolish on my part, but I always thought of Chiropractor’s a charlatans. Then, two years ago, I was in an automobile accident which added to my back problems. Because my auto insurance would pay for the Chiropractor (my regular medical won’t) I did some research and decided to try Decompression Therapy. On paper, in theory, it looked promising.
The first Chiropractor I went to used a machine called the “Evolution DT”. The procedure was simple enough. When I arrived at the office, they would first align my back using normal Chiropractic techniques. Then they would have me sit in a chair and apply a moist heat pack to my lower back for about 10 minutes to loosen me up.
The Evolution table is a newer model of decompression table. Think of it as a “split” bed that moves. The lower half goes South and the upper half stays fixed. For lower lumbar decompression, they have what amounts to a chest strap to hold you down to the table and then a hip or pelvis belt that is wrapped around your waist, just above the hip bones. This belt is what will pull your lower torso to the South.
The table has a built-in computer which is set, for the amount of pull or tension and the session time. The initial settings are based upon your weight and then gradually increase with each treatment until the tension equals half of your body weight. The machine goes through a series of applying tension and then releasing it. As I recall it is about 60 seconds on and then 30 seconds off. This creates a negative vacuum in the discs helping to pull fluids into the disc to revitalize it.
The session lasts about 20 minutes and then they have you sit in a chair again and apply a cold pack this time to reduce any swelling that the stretching may have caused for about 10 minutes.
I had good results with the Evolution for the first four or five treatments. But then, because I am on the obese side of overweight, the tension became too much and the hip (pelvis) belt would slip from my hips. Regardless of how hard they tried to tie me down to the machine, the style of the belt prevented it from getting a good grip on my hips. After six sessions, I started looking for a different machine. I knew the decompression was working because there was an almost immediate improvement in my mobility. Less pain.
I found the DRX9000 on the Internet and looked at dozens of reviews. The way it attaches to your hips is with what is more like a girdle than a belt. The DRX9000 is the latest in terms of innovation in Decompression tables. The overall procedure however remains about the same. They align, apply heat, you spend about 25 minutes on the table and then they put a cold pack on you.
The major differences in the two machines is the way your lower torso is held in place, the fact that you get into the machine standing up and it lays you down, and last but not least, they can change the angle that your lower torso is pulled at. This last feature allows them to be more specific in directing which vertebra they treat. They adjust the angle of the strap attached to the machine and belt attached to your hips. In my case, the ruptured discs are L4 & L5. The first ten treatments I had were directed at L4, the next ten at L5.
The first ten treatments I had were very effective. My range of motion without pain increased. The distance I could walk before I had to sit down doubled. My overall pain level decreased by at least 50%. After ten treatments I was feeling better than I had in a few years.
When they adjusted the settings on the machine to pull on L5, I did not improve any further. I think I would have been better off to have those 10 treatments focused on the L4 vertebra.
After 20 sessions I was impressed with the improvement. Thoughts of giving in to surgery had diminished and I was getting around much better. I finished those treatments about 18 months ago and although the benefits have slowly faded, I’m still in better shape than I was before I had them.
The cost is what keeps me from doing another series of treatments. Without insurance to pay for it, you are looking at around $3,000 for 20 visits.
Two months ago, I came across an article for a product called Spinal Stretch. Developed by a Chiropractor for his patients to use at home, it works on the same basic principles of the Decompression Tables. Compared to the tables it is low tech. You have a strap you either hold by closing a door on it, or attaching it to a hook you have screwed into the floor or baseboard. You then attach a belt around your hips, lie down on the floor and tighten it with a ratchet type device thus applying tension to your spinal column.
Although it doesn’t apply as much tension, and does not cycle between on and off as far as the tension goes, it does create relief.
I have found that using it twice a day for 30 minutes has improved my back problems substantially. I have to be very careful on how I attach it to my hips because of the girth I carry, but by hooking the belt onto my regular belt I get enough of a grip to get the job done. I might add, that you use this machine while laying on carpeting. If you tighten it to much, you slip forward. I have not tried it while laying on something you can’t slide on, but have given it thought to increase the tension.
In closing, if you have lower back problems, I’m a firm believer in the DRX9000 being able to help you. And, if you can’t afford the $3000 for the treatments, shop around, you might find a Chiropractor that is willing to do it for less. If not, invest the $100 or so in the Spinal Stretch, it will be the best $100 you have spent this year.