Relieving Back Pain Through Spinal Decompression

non surgical decompression for the spine

Chronic back pain can negatively affect every aspect of life. From professional and personal lives to overall health and wellness, back pain can disrupt productivity and decrease quality of life. For some, spinal decompression may be the answer to relieving chronic back pain.


What is Spinal Decompression?

Decompression of the spine is a general term that refers to various methods of relieving back pain. Candidates include individuals suffering moderate to severe back pain, numbness, tingling and/or weakness as a result of the following conditions:

  • Sciatica
  • Cyst or tumor
  • Bulging or herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Injured nerves

Surgical Decompression

Decompression can be performed both surgically and through less invasive techniques. Surgical techniques can vary depending on the cause of compression, and are often used only when other treatment methods have failed to relieve back pain. Surgical decompression of the spine can include the following types of surgeries:

Laminectomy or Laminectomy

This surgical procedure involves the removal of vertebra in an effort to enlarge the spinal canal in order to relieve pain and pressure to nerves, discs and the spine.


A discectomy is a procedure that involves surgical removal of damaged or herniated discs. Often, only a portion of a disc is removed, leaving the undamaged portion intact.

Foraminotomy or Foraminectomy

These surgical techniques are performed in order to expand the openings of nerve roots by removing bone and other tissue that may be in the way.

Osteophyte Removal

This method involves removing painful bone spurs, or osteophytes, from the vertebra, discs or spine.

While surgical decompression is often necessary in severe cases, it can carry risks. These risks include infection, blood clots and bleeding, as well as damage to nerves, vertebra and spine. Also, surgical decompression often involves a hospital stay, as well as a lengthy rehabilitation period that often includes pain management and physical therapy. Risks and rehabilitation aside, surgical decompression has an impressive success rate of 80 to 90 percent.

Nonsurgical Decompression

Less invasive methods of decompression typically involve gentle stretching of the spine as a means to relieve pain and discomfort. Through stretching the back and vertebrae, the position of the spine can be altered, thus relieving pressure to spinal discs.

Nonsurgical decompression often involves the use of technology. Patients are placed in a kind of motorized traction, with one harness around the pelvis and another around the upper body. A physician controls the stretching through the use of a computer, and can suit each movement to the patient’s individual needs. These treatments are performed on a regular basis for a predetermined amount of time.

While more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of nonsurgical decompression, proponents claim that, over time, this method can cause damaged discs to retract, which relieves pain and pressure to nerves and spine.

Like surgical decompression, less invasive methods carry risks as well. For example, nonsurgical decompression is not recommended for individuals osteoporosis, tumors or fractures.

If you suffer from chronic back pain, talk to a doctor to see if spinal decompression is right for you.

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