How Well Does Spinal Decompression Therapy Work?

How Well Does Spinal Decompression Therapy Work?

Spinal decompression is a type of mechanical spine traction, which separates the bones, discs, and joints of the back. Experts believe this separation relieves pressure on the spinal nerves that branch off the spinal cord. Spinal decompression reduces and relieves pain as well as improves function.

Most spinal decompression systems operate by way of a computer, which allows the healthcare provider to adjust traction force, the amount of time the force is applied, and the angle of traction offered. Common trade names of these devices are the SpinalAid System, the VAX-D System, and the DRX-9000 System.

Relief of Low Back Pain

According to a recent study, various forms of spinal decompression therapy were evaluated for acute, sub-acute, and chronic low back pain. Acute pain lasts 4 weeks or less, sub-acute pain last from 4-12 weeks, and chronic pain last longer than 12 weeks. The main concept behind spinal decompression is that the traction relieves pressure on the structures in the spine. In this study, spinal decompression was found to help with low back pain and associated symptoms, such as radicular leg pain.

Traction has been used in the treatment of low back pain for years, and its use has progressed beyond simple static traction to intermittent traction. According to recent studies, intermittent motorized traction improves low back pain and has an 86% success rate. According to a recent online poll, around 40% of chiropractic doctors use spinal decompression for the treatment of low back pain.

Clinical Trials on Spinal Decompression Effectiveness

A recent randomized controlled trial compared spinal decompression therapy to transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). The participants all reported chronic low back pain that persisted for more than 3 months. The subjects had disc herniation or protrusion, which was confirmed through MRI scans. Treatment for the participants consisted of 30-minute sessions, 5 times each week for 4 weeks. The TENS group received 30 minutes each day of therapy for 20 days, which was followed by 1 treatment per week for 4 weeks. According to the study, 70% of the spinal decompression group reported improvement while only 10% of the TENS group had pain relief. In addition, at the 6-month follow-up, 37% of the treatment group showed continued improvement.

In another study, patients with ruptured discs and sciatica were treated with either spinal decompression therapy or intermittent motorized traction. The participants had symptoms for less than 1 year, and many also suffered with facet arthrosis. The subjects did not know which treatment they were receiving. After the treatment period, 86% of the ruptured disc patients had excellent or good results from spinal decompression, which was compared to 55% for the traction patients.

In a case series that included almost 800 participants with low back pain, disc dysfunction, and facet syndrome, researchers evaluated spinal decompression along with other modalities. The participants had an average duration of pain of 4 months,

and they were evaluated using a self-assessment pain scale. This particular study found that spinal decompression had a 71% efficacy rate.

Another case series involving 33 participants using the Intervertebral Differential Dynamics unit were evaluated. The average age for these people was 73 years, and most completed around 19 treatment sessions. The researchers found that 76% of patients had a decrease in pain at the 1-year follow-up after receiving spinal decompression therapy.

Resources

Gose EE, Naguszewski WK, &Naguszewski RK (1998). Vertebral axial decompression therapy for pain associated with herniated or degenerated discs or facet syndrome: an outcome study. Neurol Res, 20:186–190.

Macario A &Pergolizzi J (2006). Systematic literature review of spinal decompression via motorized traction for chronic low back pain. Pain Pract, 6:171–178. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-2500.2006.00082.x.

Ramos G (2004). Efficacy of vertebral axial decompression on chronic low back pain: study of dosage regimen. Neurol Res, 26:320–324. doi: 10.1179/016164104225014030.

Shealy N &Borgmeyer V (1997). Decompression, reduction, and stabilization of the lumbar spine: a cost effective treatment for lumbosacral pain. Am J Pain Manage, 7:63–65.

Sherry E, Kitchener P, &Smart R (2001). A prospective randomized controlled study of VAX-D and TENS for the treatment of chronic low back pain. Neurol Res, 23:780–784. doi: 10.1179/016164101101199180.

Tilaro F & Miskovich D (1999). The effects of vertebral axial decompression on sensory nerve dysfunction in patients with low back pain and radiculopathy. Can J Clin Med, 6:2–7.

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