Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy...Does It Work?
Spinal Disc injury in Friendswood is becoming increasingly common. A spinal disc injury can occur at any age but typically occurs in people between the ages of 30 – 50 years old. Physical occupations such as parcel carriers or construction workers are often more susceptible to spinal disc injuries due to improper body mechanics or weak core muscles during activities such as lifting, bending, and twisting. However, osteoarthritis, spinal degeneration, and other conditions can also cause spinal disc injury.
What is a Spinal Disc Injury?
The spine is made up of segments of uniquely shaped bones called vertebrae, which houses the spinal cord - the main telephone line that sends important information to the rest of your body that includes breathing, swallowing, and other functions that we don’t think about. As well as housing the spinal cord, the vertebrae is also where the nerve roots extend from the spinal cord and out to the rest of the body.
Between each vertebra is a durable pad, also known as the intervertebral disc or spinal disc, made of fibrocartilage that surrounds a jelly-like center called the nucleus. In addition to the joint where the top and bottom vertebrae come together, called facets, the pad allows the spine to be flexible and absorb shock associated with walking, running, etc.
Spinal disc injuries typically occur during instances when torque is applied to the spine. Movements such as twisting or rotation of the spine, particularly when carrying extra weight, and other movements such as bending can also cause damage to the spinal discs.
Other mechanisms or contributors to disc injury include:
- Weak core muscles
- Weak postural muscles due to poor posture
- Degeneration of the vertebra due to age, activity, or other disease
- Motor Vehicle Accidents
Spinal disc injury can happen suddenly or over a length of time. In cases of sudden or acute injury, twisting activities, typically while weight bearing, create a dual action on the durable fibrous tissue that surrounds the nucleus.
Twisting movements create compression and twisting to the fibrous tissue causing the tissue to fissure or tear. When the tough, durable outer layer of the disc tears or “ruptures”, the jelly-like center of the spinal disc is allowed to exit into the surrounding structures of the vertebra – like a flood gate on a dam.
When the nucleus escapes the fibrocartilage, it can begin to compress the spinal roots that exit the vertebra or even the spinal cord itself. Compression of the nerves exiting the vertebra can cause:
- Pain that is sharp during certain movements
- Burning pain that radiates down one or both extremities (arms & legs)
- Spasm of muscles surrounding the affected area
- Tingling or numbness
- Loss of certain functions, such as bladder or bowl control
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Muscle weakness or loss of muscle function
Depending on what are of the spine has been injured will determine what body function will be affected. For example, a severe herniation in the low back can cause loss of bowl control; or damage to the neck can cause tingling, numbness, or loss of function of the arm and hand.
Some disc problems can resolve themselves over time. Also, many people who have disc issues may not have any symptoms at all. However, receiving proper treatment for a disc issue is very important to prevent further, future damage of the spine.
The Fact of the Matter
According to an article published by the University of California titled “Good Housekeeping” states that Americans spend $86 billion dollars in medical expenses to get relief from back pain, which is on par with the expenditures associated with cancer.
In addition to this article that outlines various case studies, report of findings, and contribution to failed treatments due to physician “kickbacks” from various corporate entities, another PubMed report titled “’Unnecessary’ spinal surgery: A prospective 1-year study of one surgeon's experience” states:
“Of the 274 consults, 45 patients were told they needed surgery by outside surgeons, although their neurological and radiographic findings were not abnormal … During a one-year period, 47 [17.2%] of 274 spinal consultations seen by a single neurosurgeon were scheduled for “unnecessary surgery” … Here we define “unnecessary surgery” as spinal surgery based upon “pain alone”.
Many back surgeries are conducted routinely when such extreme measures are unwarranted. Surgery is an invasive procedure that can be detrimental and have high risk for complications such as:
- Scar tissue formation around the incision site
- Muscle weakness
- Poor wound healing
- Damage to the nerve roots or spinal cord
- Permanent loss of bodily functions
- Chronic pain
Another study reports: “Elderly patients appear to have a worse postoperative outcome after LDH surgery than young and middle-aged patients, they are referred to surgery with inferior clinical status, and they improve less after the surgery.” According to another PubMed article “The outcome of lumbar disc herniation surgery is worse in old adults than in young adults”
In some cases, back surgery is necessary to prevent or correct more serious issues. However, other more conservative measures should be taken and exhausted before surgery should be considered.
The Back Bone of Relief
According to the National Institute of Health, 74% of people with back pain seek Chiropractic care for relief from their back pain. Risks associated with chiropractic care is stated to be “very, very low” with minor complications including temporary soreness; whereas the risks associated with surgery are much higher. A Chiropractor may use a combination of modalities such as myofascial release, stretches and exercise, and spinal decompression for relief of disc related back pain.
Spinal decompression is a procedure that places the patient on a mechanical table that cycles between decompression and relaxation. Decompression creates a vacuum or “negative pressure” within the joint, pulling in essential fluid to promote proper hydration of the spinal disc, whilst increasing disc space and decreasing pressure on the affected spinal nerve roots. Spinal decompression may also help re-position or pull the nucleus back into the fibrocartilage.
One article published by the National Institute of Health discussed one trial study titled “Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy: does the scientific literature support efficacy claims made in the advertising media?” concluded that although more research and study needed to be conducted;
“A clinical trial comparing intermittent motorized traction to spinal decompression (DRS System®) was performed and reported in 1997… Twenty-three had ruptured discs confirmed by MRI and 35 had sciatic radiation… The authors state 86% of ruptured disc patients had "good or excellent" results using decompression therapy compared to 55% for traction subjects. Facet arthrosis patients had similar results with 75% improved with decompression therapy compared to 50% for traction.”
In addition, this study shows in cases of radiculopathy on the low back, 64% of people who receive this treatment showed restored nerve function with 27% showing improved function.
Talk to you Chiropractor!
Non-Surgical Spinal decompression is a great tool for dealing with many conditions that effect the spine. Here at Forever Well Chiropractic, we have seen increasing success in patients with on-going low back and neck pain and can improve conditions such as:
• Bulging or herniated discs
• Spinal Stenosis
• Facet Syndrome
• Degenerative Disc Disease
• Pinched nerves
• and radiating pain down the leg
If you’re suffering from back pain associated with sciatica or herniated disc, don’t allow surgery to be your first option. If you have any questions regarding how decompression therapy can help your back and neck issues, or you are considering surgery, we invite you to a brief consultation with Dr. Haywood who can help determine if this approach is right for you.