WHAT IS (NON SURGICAL) SPINAL DECOMPRESSION THERAPY?A mechanical traction treatment that elongates the spine in order to release the pressure on damaged spinal discs, joints and nerves. It originated in the USA in the late 1990’s and is now gaining popularity in the UK.
Also known as “Intermittent Sustained Spinal Traction” (ISST), it can be used on the neck (cervical spine) as well as the low back (lumbar spine).
WHAT IS IT USED FOR?It is used to treat and help prevent certain types of back pain, trapped nerves and sciatica caused by damaged discs and joints in the neck and back. It can help people suffering with herniated discs, bulging discs, cervical spondylosis, limber spondylosis, spinal degeneration, facet joint syndrome, radioculopathy, general low back pain, chronic low back pain, chronic neck pain and “non-specific” back pain.
Many musculoskeletal problems start with the squashing of the discs between vertebrae in the spine. Compression of intervertebral discs inhibits the shock absorbing properties of the spine, and leads to excess wear and tear of the surrounding joints, resulting in painful conditions like arthritis and spondylo-arthrosis. Pain can be felt directly in the back, neck and shoulders, and the extra pressure on spinal nerves can cause referred pain or sciatica in the legs, or shooting pains, numbness, pins and needles and weakness in the arms or hands. In addition, compressed discs inhibit the spine’s ability to absorb and expel fluids from surrounding tissues, leading to further spinal degeneration.
HOW DOES IT WORK?Spinal Decompression exerts smooth pressure to ease apart the specific vertebral segments required. This takes immediate pressure off the discs, joints and spinal nerves, easing pain and muscle spasm. When body weight pressure reapplies once the patient stands up, the temporary vacuum within the disc allows the previously restricted flow of fluid and nutrients to resume once more, promoting healing and regeneration. Patients often feel significant relief in symptoms from a few sessions, although it typically takes a treatment course of 5 to 20 sessions to effect long lasting healing.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS DURING TREATMENTS?A treatment session typically lasts 5 - 30 minutes. You remain fully clothed. A harness is secured around the pelvis or head. You lie down on your back, and the decompression force is then applied, at a precise angle depending on the target area of the spine. Cycles of tension are applied for around 20 minutes, with the maximum force for 30-60 seconds at a time dropping to 30-second rest periods at low tension.
Older forms of traction used constant pressure, which is thought to prolong stretching of tissue, leading to temporary pain or muscle spasm. This new therapy uses intermittent pressure, with gaps between applications of stretching force, allowing more fluid and nutrients to be drawn into the disc.
HOW SUCCESSFUL IS SPINAL DECOMPRESSION THERAPY?In a trial in 1997, 86%of patients treated with decompression for disc herniation enjoyed “good to excellent” results. In another study, a success rate of 92% was found in patients who had been previously categorised as surgical cases.
It is essential that all patients have a consultation with one of our senior clinicians prior to undergoing Spinal Decompression Therapy, in order to assess the appropriateness of this treatment.