What Is Spinal Decompression Therapy?

Spinal decompression therapy is a nonsurgical approach to treatment for individuals who are experiencing mild to moderate disc pain related to bulging discs, herniated discs or the initial stages of degenerative disc disease.

This type of therapy addresses the fact that discs have no blood supply of their own and must glean oxygen and nutrients from the vessels that supply the surrounding vertebral bones with blood, making it extremely difficult for the discs to heal or repair themselves once damage has been sustained. The aim of decompression therapy is to use traction to alternately decompress and relax the disc using a vacuum-like pressure. This type of therapy is thought to increase circulation to the disc, increase the disc’s water intake and reduce the pressure of the disc’s inner material, the nucleus pulposus. This may not only relieve disc pressure, but also reduce compression of nearby spinal nerve roots.

Who Is Not a Candidate for Spinal Decompression Therapy?

The following factors may eliminate spinal decompression therapy as a treatment option for certain individuals:

  • Advanced age
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Osteoporosis
  • Advanced disc degeneration
  • Other musculoskeletal conditions or injuries

Other Conservative Spine Treatments

If you are exploring your options for nonsurgical neck or back pain treatments, you may want to discuss the option of spinal decompression therapy with your physician. Other treatments include yoga, low-impact exercise, hot/cold compresses, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, behavior modification, pain medication and pain relief injections. Some individuals also choose to integrate different forms of complementary and alternative medicine into their treatment regimens. Massage, acupuncture, acupressure and chiropractic manipulation are options that you can discuss with your health care providers. About 90 percent of individuals who have degenerative spine conditions like bulging discs and herniated discs will likely be able to find relief non-surgically.

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