Is Spinal Decompression Therapy Safe?  

Mar 5, 2020Chiropractic


In early 2020, the trial of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein generated many news headlines for various reasons, and not all of them related to the egregious misconduct he was accused of. Many people noticed that Weinstein arrived in court with the help of a walker, and he had a hard time walking to the courtroom in Manhattan, at various points, he even had to physically lean on his attorneys to stand and move around. Weinstein did not look good, and this was the result of a surgical procedure he had undergone weeks before the trial started.

The surgery that left Weinstein in such bad shape was performed on his spine, and it is commonly associated with chronic ailments or injuries that cause excruciating lower back pain. There is a chance that Weinstein’s mobility will improve with physical therapy, but there is also a chance that he may have opted for a non-surgical procedure, one that would not have caused him to use a walker afterward. Spinal decompression procedures conducted on an outpatient basis at chiropractic clinics are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and they are often recommended to patients who prefer not going under the knife with spinal fusion procedures.

In essence, spinal decompression involves the stretching and realignment of the spine. While this may sound risky and even painful, this is not the case at all. Spinal decompression therapy is not only safe but also highly recommended for some patients.

Understanding Neck and Lower Back Pain

Formation of hernias is often to blame for lower back pain, followed by bulging of discs and degeneration of the vertebrae. Some of the situations that can be catalysts of lower back pain include:

  • Forced repetitive motion.
  • Poor posture.
  • Sedentary lifestyles.
  • Road traffic accidents
  • Sports injuries.

The reason lower back pain often extends to other parts of the human anatomy, where it can affect other functions such as bending down and walking, is because of the structural and connective role that this anatomic section plays. The lumbar area is tasked with promoting movement, protecting tissues, and providing a shield for the spinal cord. The connections found herein include discs, vertebrae, and ligaments that extend to other organs.

Adverse Bone and Joint Conditions

Some patients are born with congenital conditions such as spina bifida and scoliosis that are almost guaranteed to bring about lower back pain. Quality of life for these patients can certainly be improved through chiropractic treatment. Most patients with lower back pain have likely gone through injuries or situations that result in tissue degeneration.

As previously mentioned, patients who endure poor posture, particularly from sitting for long hours in workplaces that do not promote ergonomics, can promote the degeneration of tissue and ligaments in our spinal structure. There is also the natural process of degeneration brought about by aging; this is known as osteoarthritis, which brings about inflammation pain, spasms, and rigidity.

The Dangers of Spinal Surgical Procedures

It is estimated that up to 80% of people across the United States suffer from back pain that is most commonly felt on the lower sections of their backs or on the posterior aspects of their necks. In 2004, a research study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that more than 150,000 Americans opted for spinal fusion surgery to alleviate their chronic back pain, and even orthopedic surgeons believe that this was too high of a figure. Spinal fusion has been largely supplanted by a surgical decompression procedure that is less invasive, and this is the aforementioned surgery that Weinstein underwent before his case went to court.

The incisions and invasive manipulation of the spinal structure during fusion or surgical decompression cause post-operative edema, decreased range of motion, and overall discomfort. This kind of surgical procedure tends to be risky, which is why even orthopedic surgeons try to avoid them whenever possible. Some patients never quite recover from these surgeries, leading to a condition known as “failed back” syndrome, which is what Weinstein appears to have gone through in early 2020.

Why Chiropractic Spinal Decompression is Recommended

Orthopedic doctors used to recommend traction therapy, a chiropractic treatment that is more involved than spinal alignment. Over the last few decades, traction has improved and evolved into spinal decompression, a treatment strategy that consists of multiple outpatient visits. In essence, spinal decompression is based on alignment, but it is performed on a special table augmented with computerized feedback enabled by sensors.

Gradual body motion is prescribed for the purpose of generating signal data picked up and interpreted by a strain gauge. The reaction of the patient’s muscle tissue prompts readjustment of the table so that spinal discs are subject to tension and pressure. This therapy promotes the natural nutrition of discs because they absorb more oxygenated molecules. In some cases, the chiropractor may also apply cold compresses after decompression to alleviate immediate discomfort.

Contraindications of Spinal Decompression

This therapy is only performed on patients whose spinal growth and surrounding muscle tissue have fully developed; in other words, the treatment is for individuals who are at least 18 years old. There may be side effects such as slight muscle spasms, but they can be managed. Patients will be expected to follow the physical therapy recommendations of chiropractors, and this may include stretching at home as well as observing proper posture.

Patients with failed back syndrome caused by spinal fusion may benefit from chiropractic decompression as long as they do not have metal rods. Pregnant patients should never go through spinal decompression therapy, and the same goes for patients who suffer from cancerous neoplasms of the spine. In some osteoporosis cases, this treatment will not bring about relief and may even cause injury.

The bottom line of chiropractic spinal decompression is that it is safe and preferred to the risk of surgical procedures. Lower back pain may not always require decompression or even traction; some patients will get relief from traditional spinal alignment sessions.
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