Spinal decompression therapy or traction? Can it help my herniated disc, bulged disc or stenosis?
Spinal decompression therapy can help relieve the pain associated with disc bulging and herniation. In this post, we’re going to get into what spinal decompression is and what it does. We’ll also touch on complementary therapies and other treatment options. Not to be confused with traction which we offer as well.
Traction or decompression, what’s the right fit for you?
For a further explanation on the difference between decompression and traction: WATCH HERE
Why the spine is so important
If you Google the question, “What is the most important part of the body?”, the most common answer is the brain. Because it sends the messages to tell the body what to do it is definitely plays an important role. While that certainly is one of the body’s key organs the spine is the body’s “information highway”. When anything happens to this information delivery system those messages are stuck at home so to speak. The brain and spine make up the nervous system. Combined, they control all of the body’s cells, muscles, tissues, and organs. You only get one spine, and injury and aging cannot be reversed, so you’re definitely going to want to take care of it.
Injury or lots of wear and tear to your spine can limit your mobility and cause difficulty performing even basic moves like bending, twisting, sitting straight, turning, etc. A damaged spine can block neural response, those messages from your brain, shutting down sensation to the affected parts of your body.
What causes spinal compression or disc herniation and bulging?
Inflammation and bulging or herniated discs are often the culprits behind spinal compression. However, other things like spinal tumors can also be at fault. That makes it very important to get a full evaluation as soon as possible if you begin to have problems. The compression of the cord can cause pain and numbness throughout the limbs. Possibly even more severe conditions, such as muscle weakness, organ dysfunction, and migraine headaches. Probably the biggest cause of this type of disc damage is an injury or poor lifting and bending habits but also congenital or degenerative conditions. These can occur in many ways.
- Car accidents
- Sports injuries
- Work injuries
- Slip and fall accidents
- Lifting and bending injuries
- Congenital conditions
- Degenerative arthritis
Treatment options for disc injury or pinched nerves
If you have been diagnosed with a disc bulge or herniation it does not mean you will have to endure a lifetime of pain. There are a lot of new treatment options available that are well researched and backed by a ton of evidence. Let’s dig into some of them.
The most conservative, least invasive, approach is chiropractic. The two main techniques we use here are Cox flexion-distraction and spinal decompression
Cox flexion-distraction is a hands-on technique that differs from traditional spinal decompression. This technique uses precise amounts of specialized manual manipulation to specific points of the spine at the same time that a smooth, rhythmic motion is applied with a specialized Cox table. This gentle process decreases pressure on herniated or bulging discs and the nerves that run up and down within the spinal column as well as those exiting the spine as they run to different parts of the body, relieving pressure. I am a certified CoxTechnic ® practitioner.
Spinal Decompression is a non-invasive technique that I use at Synergy Wellness Chiropractic and Physical Therapy of New York City for chronic spinal disc herniation and bulges. It involves separating the spinal segments using a mechanical process, to relieve lower back or neck pain. Both decompression and Cox flexion distraction are great options for people suffering from these and many other conditions or who may have a problematic history with painkillers.
Our decompression equipment is computerized. This offers the ability to create a personalized program that will gradually release and then decompress anywhere from 25% to 75%. Since discs are avascular and therefore take longer to heal, the pumping action helps nutrient-rich fluids flow to the disc. This allows for additional healing to occur in the areas of disc degeneration. In addition to spinal decompression, we may also add cold laser therapy to help speed herniated disc healing even more. Cold laser and spinal decompression together are extremely effective for severe cases. When used properly this combo is a total game-changer. We usually see a 50% or more reduction in symptoms in less than 4 weeks!
Cold laser therapy
Cold Laser Therapy is expanding the options for treating chronic pain and soft tissue injuries. This safe, non-invasive, and effective treatment option opens up a whole new way to treat pain and heal soft tissue injuries. Cold Laser Therapy decreases inflammation and accelerates the body’s own natural healing process. It’s almost like you’re healing at the speed of light! This is a great complementary therapy that greatly speeds up the healing process.
To learn more about how Cold Laser Therapy is transforming pain relief options check out my post, Cold Laser Therapy: treating chronic pain and soft tissue injuries.
Acupuncture and physical therapy
Research has discovered that acupuncture influences the release of dopamine as well as other chemicals to increase a sense of well-being and reduce pain. This treatment can be used alongside other therapies for a synergistic effect making it a good pain relief option for many people.
Physical Therapy, or physiotherapy, is a field of medicine that utilizes evidence-based treatment options. The main job of physical therapy is returning the patient to the highest level of personal independence. This is the most common form of rehab after an acute disc injury.
The Healthcare Professionals at Synergy Wellness & Physical Therapy in New York City are trained in helping patients transition from injury care to prevention programs that are designed to assist patients of all ages to perform at their best without any thought of past injury.
Pharmaceuticals, injections, & surgery
From here the options become progressively more invasive. Usually starting with over-the-counter medications, the search for effective pain relief generally progresses to prescription meds including opioids, then epidurals or steroid injections. Those pain management procedures only deal with the symptoms and come with a whole host of risks and side effects, including addiction. The most invasive approach is surgery which shows very poor outcomes by five years post-surgery. Only a small percentage of people really require this option so consider it an option of last resort.
Spinal decompression equipment
Here at Synergy Wellness, we have two different decompression tables. In addition to the Cox8® table used for CoxTechnic®, we also have a Hill Auto-Flex spinal decompression table that offers a computerized spinal decompression system that can adapt to your body. This feature allows the table to react to changes in muscle tension and keeps your body relaxed. By having this customizable option it makes this treatment more effective than what can be achieved through regular traction.
What’s the difference between spinal decompression and traction? Spinal decompression is similar to traction in that you are strapped by the waist and feet or neck region. One of the main differences is that the equipment for spinal decompression uses a computer to sense when muscle fibers are guarding. Muscle guarding is when your muscles are held in a partial state of readiness so they are not fully relaxed. When your body is injured it will use this mechanism as a form of self-defense used by the body.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc, disc bulge, sciatica, or any other type of pinched spinal nerve, you may be a good candidate for spinal decompression. However, you want to be aware there are a few types of disc herniations that can flare up with spinal decompression. These conditions need to be handled with more care. However, with MRI imaging, tolerance testing, and the use of cold laser therapy to aid in the reabsorption of the disc, even in these cases you may be able to begin a spinal decompression program.
Does It Hurt?
Spinal decompression and flexion-distraction should not be painful. In fact, many patients often describe their experience as pleasant and similar to getting a therapeutic massage. The release of pressure from compressed joints is usually a great relief. At Synergy Wellness Chiropractic and Physical Therapy of New York City, we make sure that you are completely safe, comfortable, and supported during the process.
Depending on the nature of your spinal problem, you may experience some discomfort during some portions of the procedure. This is not generally very significant though. An assessment of your situation will discover which techniques will be suitable for you and your condition.
Contraindications for Spinal Decompression Therapy
Spinal decompression is a safe and non-invasive treatment option. However, there are a few of the conditions where it is not recommended.
- Pregnant women
- Broken vertebrae
- Anyone who has had spinal fusion
- Patients who have an artificial disc, or other implants, in their spine
- A previous failed back surgery
- Anyone who has had multiple surgeries without recovery or pain improvement
Here are more helpful videos explaining how spinal decompression works with different conditions.
New York City Chiropractor
At Synergy Wellness Chiropractic & Physical Therapy in New York City, Dr. David Kulla provides many effective treatments, including Spinal Decompression, Cox Technic ®, and Cold Laser Therapy. Schedule an appointment for safe and effective chiropractic care today. (212) 533-4900
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