Non-surgical spinal decompression is manual therapeutic traction applied to spinal vertebral joints to relieve chronic backache, sciatica and other musculoskeletal disorders involving the spinal cord. Due to age related degenerative diseases of bones or certain occupational activities that cause excessive wear and tear of the axial skeleton, the spinal joints undergo deterioration leading to herniation, nerve compression, stenosis and arthritis that affect quality of life and may interfere with day to day activities. In order to manage the disabling symptoms, chiropractors perform manual stretching of the vertebral joints to relieve tension, stress and pressure from the nerves, muscles and tendons.
The primary goal of non-surgical or surgical spinal decompression therapy is to stretch the spinal vertebral joints without causing the contraction of spinal muscles. Primarily, a negative suction force (or intra-discal pressure) is generated that aims at drawing the prolapsed ends of the disc inwards and thereby helps in alleviation of symptoms.
Depending upon the indication, severity of lesion and other relevant factors, your chiropractor may perform 20 to 28 therapy sessions during a period of approximately 5 to 8 weeks. Each session may last for about 30 to 45 minutes during which you lie on a spinal decompression table (that has adjustable length and segmentation). Your therapist adjusts the table (that may be computer operated or manual) according to the site and severity of your lesion.
After therapy you may need other complementary treatments to potentiate the effect of decompression like heat compresses or cold compresses to alleviate pain symptoms (as a result of therapeutic decompression or because of the therapy itself), therapy by ultrasound waves that provide warmth to inflamed tissues with deeper penetration and promote regeneration and healing at cellular level or transcutaneous electrical stimulation and other similar therapies for stabilization of spinal apparatus to prevent recurrent compression.
In a study conducted by Gose author reported a case series in which non-surgical spinal decompression was attempted in 778 cases with a history of disc dysfunction, facet syndrome or chronic low back pain. With periodic decompression, pain relief and improvement in mobility was achieved by 71% of the study population without any additional therapy. The positive result was subjective pain relief of 0 or 1 from a scale of 0 to 5.
Non-surgical spinal decompression is indicated for individuals who are experiencing chronic debilitating symptoms due to degenerative disease of vertebral joints leading to spinal stenosis, characterized by persistent and chronic lower back pain that affects physical independence, progressive degenerative joint disease marked by appearance of complications like bladder incontinence, bowel incontinence, paresthesia, numbness or sciatica, spinal disc herniation that affect the functioning of nerves, bony outgrowth due to constant rub or friction, posterior facet syndrome or radiculopathy (damage to spinal nerve roots).
According to the research conducted by Steven J Atlas, surgical decompression has slightly better long term prognosis when compared to non-surgical decompression but the rate of short-term complications is higher in surgical patients. Atlas suggested that non-surgical approach should be employed in mild to moderate cases but if symptoms does not resolve, surgical decompression should be attempted.
Non-surgical spinal decompression creates a state of negative pressure that promotes retraction of spinal vertebrae that helps in the correction of herniated discs and compressed intervertebral joints. Researchers believe that it is impossible to heal the intervertebral compression fractures without performing decompression. The most outstanding benefit of decompression is the restoration of blood supply to regenerating tissues and prevention of pressure induced nerve damage.
Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy is associated with excellent results; however, many people are not ideal candidates for this therapy. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding you should not opt for non-surgical decompression due to high risk of undesired events. If you have recognized or diagnosed spinal vertebral fracture, you are not an ideal candidate for manual decompression. All the individuals who have bone tumor or tumors in the abdominal, pelvic or lumbar region should not opt for manual decompression due to high risk of life threatening hemorrhage, tumor lysis and other complications. If you have metallic implants in your vertebrae (as a result of severe injury or surgery) this therapy is not for you. In disorders of bone mineral density, established osteoporosis and chronic vitamin D deficiency or patients who have a positive personal or family history of aneurysmal conditions should not opt for manual spinal decompression.
In some cases when non-surgical decompression does not yield fruitful results, the only option left with most practitioners is to opt for surgical decompression that carries more risk and hazards when compared to a non-surgical variety, like infection, bleeding, iatrogenic damage to major nerves or tissues and others.