Talking About The Benefits Of Chiropractic Care

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Could Spinal Decompression Therapy Help Herniated Discs?

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Between the bony vertebrae in your spine, there are rubbery discs that help maintain flexibility and act as shock absorbers. The rubbery portion of these discs is called the nucleus pulposus (NP), and it's made up of water, proteins, and collagen fibers. The NP is protected by a hard cartilage shell, called the annulus. Sometimes, after a back injury, a person may develop a herniated, or prolapsed, disc where the NP bulges out of the cartilage shell. 

While some patients may not experience any symptoms with a herniated disc, other people may experience pain and nerve irritation. Herniated discs can be repaired with surgery, but your doctor may recommend non-invasive methods first, such as physical therapy and medication. One non-invasive treatment you may want to ask your doctor about is spinal decompression.

What is Spinal Decompression?

Spinal decompression is a therapy where a patient lies on a specialized table that incorporates motorized traction to gently stretch the vertebrae. Decompression helps to create a negative pressure within the disc, which can relieve nerve pressure and supply the disc with oxygen and other nutrients needed for healing.

Are You a Good Candidate for Spinal Decompression?

Only your doctor will know whether you are a good candidate for spinal decompression, but in general, spinal decompression may be able to help people with not only herniated discs but with posterior facet syndrome and sciatica as well. You should not undergo spinal decompression if you have osteoporosis, metal implants in the spine, and/or a spinal tumor or fracture.

How Do Sessions Usually Work?

You don't need to wear a hospital gown during spinal decompression, you can be fully clothed. But you may want to wear gym clothes or loose clothing so that you are more comfortable. Your chiropractor will have you lie on the decompression table and place a harness around the pelvis and core of your body.

Some tables have face cradles so that you lie face down, while other table models may have you lying face up. Your chiropractor will set certain parameters in a computer to customize the angle and length of the traction depending on your needs. Once you are situated, the harness will gently pull your pelvis and the table may bend, or distract, to stretch the spine.

Spinal decompression appointments aren't very long, but you may need to have multiple appointments for a few weeks or months to treat the issue. Again, the treatment plan really depends on your diagnosis and health goals. After spinal decompression, your chiropractor may also use conjunctive treatments, such as ultrasound therapy or heat/cold therapy. He or she may also recommend in-office physical therapy or prescribe at-home exercises after decompression sessions. One study found that spinal decompression therapy—combined with core strengthening exercises—could be beneficial in helping people with disc prolapses.

Reach out to a chiropractor in your area today for more information.