Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can spinal decompression help my herniated or bulging disc?
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: A bulge is when the inner nucleus of the disc becomes disrupted and partially pushes toward the periphery of the disc making it bulge. This in turn can press on nerve tissue. A herniation is when the nuclear material pushes clear through and past the periphery of the disc and into the spinal canal, which can also press on nerve tissue. Both of these conditions are referred to as “space occupying lesions” in that they occupy space in the spinal canal and/or the canal where the spinal nerves exit the spine and put pressure on nerve tissue that also occupies that same space.
ANSWER: Yes spinal decompression can help both of these conditions by increasing the available space for the nerve tissue in that region. It accomplishes that task by creating negative pressure inside the disc which draws in any bulging or herniated disc material away from the nerve tissue and allows healing to initiate.
2. What is spinal stenosis and can spinal decompression help with that condition?
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal and or the openings for the nerve roots at the side of the spine. It is caused by two conditions. One is degenerative arthritis and deposition of calcium on the articular surfaces of the vertebrae and the second is either a bulging or herniated disc at that level. The two conditions combine to narrow the canal or intervertebral foramina. This crowds the nerve tissue putting pressure on the nerve which will result in pain decreased nerve function and will eventually limit the person’s ability to walk.
ANSWER: Yes spinal decompression has good success with spinal stenosis, a condition previously thought to only treat by surgery. This is one of the more difficult conditions that we treat and the success depends on how long the person has the condition and the age of the patient. Spinal decompression helps by opening the spinal canal and foramina by gently drawing in the offending disc. A small change in the opening size can significantly decompress the nerve tissue alleviating the symptoms. A good program of strengthening and rehabilitation is provided to build up spinal stability and strength.
3. Can you perform spinal decompression in both the neck and low back?
ANSWER: yes we have individual machines that treat low back and neck problems. They function in the same manner by creating a gentle pull to decompress the spinal discs.
4. Can you help degenerative arthritis and spondylosis?
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Spondylosis is another name for arthritis. This arthritis may consist of spurs above and below each disc with each spur growing towards each other or it may be arthritic changes of the facet joints between each vertebra. Arthritis usually starts as dehydration or drying out of the disc between each vertebra because of damage to the disc or repetitive injury. As the vertebrae stop moving due to this drying out the body responds by laying down calcium to support the area. So a combination of lack of motion, dehydration and calcium deposition creates pain, swelling and inflammation.
ANSWER: Spinal decompression works wonders for degenerative arthritis as it rehydrates the disc, increases the size of the disc space and provides motion to the joints. I can over time cause the absorption of the calcium from the disc surfaces by oxygenating the tissues. Decompression also works by reducing the weight bearing stress of the joints of the spine.
5. Can spinal decompression help spondylolisthesis?
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Spondylolisthesis is a non-union or disconnection between the front part of the bone (vertebral body) which supports your weight and the back part of the bone which controls movement. This non-union usually stabilizes by the early to mid twenties. It usually results in an increase in the lumbar curve which is made worse by standing or sitting. Many times there can be a disc bulge at the site of the spondylolisthesis which causes chronic low back pain.
ANSWER: Spinal decompression can be performed on a spondylolisthesis to a certain degree of displacement. Careful review of the x-rays and MRI’s will determine if the procedure can be performed.
6. Can decompression help a facet syndrome or facet joint hypertrophy?
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: the lumbar facets are located behind the vertebra bodies. Each vertebra has four facet joints; two connecting it with the vertebra above, and two joints connecting it to the vertebra below. These joints are adjacent to the peripheral nerves where they exit the spinal canal and pass through the intervertebral foramina ( a hole through which the peripheral nerves pass, and part of each facet joint helps form part of this foramina). For that reason, arthritic changes to this portion of the facet joint can encroach upon the foraminal space and place pressure on the exiting nerve root.
ANSWER: Yes, by alleviating the pressure on the facet joint surfaces and by mobilizing the joints decompression can help to alleviate facet joint pain. If there is a space occupying lesion at the same level spinal decompression can eliminate the effects of a narrowed foramina by reducing the pressure on the nerve tissue.
7. If I am receiving epidural injections or have been told I need them can you do decompression at the same time?
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Epidural injections are given by pain management specialists to reduce inflammation at the site of a space occupying lesion (herniated or bulging disc). Steroids are given into the epidural space that surrounds the spinal cord through injections given through the back or neck. These injections are used to control inflammations and are to curative. A series of three are usually given in a course over one year.
ANSWER: Spinal decompression can be used at the same time that epidural injections are given. We wait about 24 hours after the injection as the decompression process helps to draw the steroid into the offending disc by creating negative pressure in the disc. This actually reduces the pain of the disc bulge or herniation due to the steroidal effect while we accomplish decompression of the disc.
8. Can decompression therapy be used with Failed Low Back Surgery?
ANSWER: Yes decompression is highly successful in conditions known as Failed Low Back Surgery. It cannot be used where there has been hardware installed due to prior surgery such as plates screws, cages or an artificial disc. We have had a very rate of pain reduction in this condition with no side effects.
9. What conditions are contraindicated for spinal decompression?
ANSWER: Pregnancy, cancer of the spine or nerve tissue, infections of the spine, acute compression fractures of the spine, osteoporosis, spondylolisthesis grade 2.5 and above, screws, plates, cages, artificial discs and obesity.
10. Are there any documented side effects of spinal decompression?
ANSWER: No, there are no documented side effects using spinal decompression. A careful evaluation of the patient must be performed in order to rule out any contraindications first before undergoing the decompression procedure. If you area candidate for this procedure you will be comforted to know that the majority of patients recover in a very short period of time.
11. How do I know if I am a candidate for spinal decompression?
ANSWER: To determine if you are a candidate for decompression we first sit down with you and have a full consultation where we go over your present condition, look at your past history, review your medications, determine if any of your previous surgeries are affecting your condition.
We then review your X-rays and MRI’s and all laboratory reports and tests. A full body exam including orthopedic, neurological, range of motion, strength and movement evaluation is performed. If you do not have MRI’s and or X-rays we will send out for these.
This information is then analyzed and a determination is made as to whether you are a candidate or not. On a good note most of our potential patients are good candidates for this procedure.
12. What other procedures do you do as part of the decompression process?
ANSWER: We have a full service physical therapy department that specializes in spinal rehabilitation. Core and postural strengthening is provided during decompression therapy. Our physical therapists use specialized equipment that will create strength and movement in areas that have less than mobile due to your condition. We slowly over time increase function of these damaged areas and develop stability which decreases your pain and mobility.