Spinal decompression therapy is used to stretch the spine, and it can be done surgically or nonsurgically. When done nonsurgically, it is performed using a motorized device, like a traction table. The goal is to alleviate back pain or pain in the legs. This is a nonsurgical treatment because it isn’t invasive. Surgical spinal decompression can refer to multiple procedures that are designed to alleviate the symptoms that are caused by compression of the nerve roots or the spinal cord. Thickened joints, bulging discs, bony growths, and loose ligaments are causes for spinal canal narrowing that can require decompression surgery.
Symptoms of Nerve Compression in the Spine
There are a number of signs that you are experiencing spinal nerve compression. They are:
These sensations tend to be experienced in the limbs. There are also cases where compression may be so severe that paralysis results. If there’s no paralysis, then there could be problems with bowel or bladder function.
Common Surgical Spinal Decompression Techniques
The surgeries that can be performed to decompress nerves are:
- Discectomy – Part of a degenerating disc is removed so that pressure on nearby nerves is relieved.
- Laminectomy – A small portion of the bony arches in the spinal canal is removed. Sometimes the entire lamina needs to be removed so that pressure is relieved.
- Corpectomy – Discs and the body of a vertebra must be removed.
- Osteophyte removal – Bone spurs are removed from the spine.
- Foraminectomy – The nerve root openings are expanded. A large amount of bone and tissue may have to be removed.
There are some risks associated with spinal decompression surgery. They include blood clots, infection, bleeding, tissue or nerve damage, and an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. All surgeries have risks, which is why it’s important for you to address those risks with your surgeon.
How Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression Works
When lying on a motorized table, the lower half of the table moves. A harness is placed around the hips and attached to the movable part of the table. The movable section moves back and forth, providing relaxation and traction. Sometimes patients may have to lie face down. Regardless of how a person is positioned on the table, the patient should feel no pain during or after therapy although the spine has been stretched. It can take 15 to 30 treatments to see results. Each treatment lasts from 30 to 45 minutes.
Additional treatments might be needed, however. Electric stimulation and heat and cold therapy are two of them. Patients are encouraged to drink up to a half-gallon of water per day and use nutritional supplements. Exercises may also be recommended to do at home in order to improve mobility and strength.
Are You a Candidate?
It is best to talk to your doctor about your candidacy for surgery or therapy. If you are pregnant, have broken vertebrae, have had spinal fusion, have an artificial disc, have had failed back surgery in the past, or have had multiple surgeries without improvement, you may not be a candidate.