Does Spinal Decompression Work?

June 01, 2019

Does spinal decompression work?
Kyleigh Roessner RN-BSN

When it comes to lower back pain, people will try anything to get relief. Some products or treatment approaches are successful, and others only work for a few individual cases. Sometimes the products or treatments are inexpensive and worth a shot, and other times, it's an expensive, yet ineffective attempt for relief. Spinal decompression is one treatment that has met with its critics and its champions. So, with that in mind, we ask the question, "does spinal decompression work?"

The Theory

Spinal decompression, according to Spine-Health, is thought to work by alternately stretching and releasing the spine in a controlled, non-surgical manner. Usually the patient lies on a special table that stretches the spine in specific areas by extending and retracting.

Proponents of the therapy allege that as the spine is stretched, it creates negative pressure, like a vacuum that should pull any bulging intervertebral discs back into their designated space. They also believe that this effect brings much-needed oxygen and nutrients into the discs which can help them heal.

Other advantages of spinal decompression therapy include reducing the pressure on compressed nerves and improving the mobility of the spine, according to Toronto Physiotherapy.

Cost

The cost of the treatment varies by the practitioner, the technology being used to provide spinal decompression and the area the treatment is offered. However, some sources report that the cost can vary from $30 a session to $200 a session, with many sessions required to completely find relief for lower back pain. Some patients end up spending thousands of dollars, and the results are certainly not guaranteed.

So, Does Spinal Decompression Work?

Back pain is really a tricky thing. The spine is a complex structure, supported by muscles and nerve pathways that are completely unique to each person. There certainly exist testimonials from people who have received significant benefits from regular spinal decompression therapy. Also, there are testimonials from people who experienced a worsening of their back pain symptoms.

Research studies of the treatment are also difficult to interpret because many of them don't have enough participants to properly control for variables. Ultimately, in reviewing all of the quality scientific research studies available, it was determined that spinal decompression is not reliably effective in reducing back pain.

Discussing Spinal Decompression

If you feel that you want to pursue spinal decompression as a treatment for your lower back pain, a chiropractor that you trust should be one of your first stops for more information. Be sure to discuss with them your relevant health history; tell them if you have had spinal surgery before, spinal stenosis or osteoporosis. Additionally, if you are pregnant, taking blood thinners or if your pain is in your neck or arms, this may worsen with spinal decompression.

If you are struggling with low back pain, consult with your primary care physician, physical therapist or trusted chiropractor. In the meantime, you can use some mental tricks to help reduce your stress and back pain at work or learn about what you can expect when you receive chiropractic treatment.

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