Back pain is something that almost everyone experiences from time to time. Many conditions can cause back pain. One of the more common is spinal compression. If you have back pain caused by spinal compression, spinal decompression is a non-surgical option that can help you eliminate the pain and get back to life.
Causes of Spinal Compression
Our spine consists of a stack of backbones, called vertebrae, that hold your body upright. These bones house and protect the spinal cord. It also has many other nerves and soft tissues that connect to it. The brain and spinal cord are called the central nervous system. This system branches out to the legs and arms, which is known as the peripheral nervous system.
Between each of the vertebrae is a disc that is meant to cushion the vertebrae and nerves. If this disc becomes damaged or compressed, it can cause the bones of the spinal cord to rub or hit together, and it can compress or damage the other nerves and soft tissues in the area. Many factors can contribute to spinal cord compression. These include:
- Age-related wear and tear
- Certain bone diseases
- Spinal tumors
Other factors that can cause spinal compression include rheumatoid arthritis or abnormal spine alignment. Anything that causes the vertebrae to slip out of alignment can cause spinal compression and pain.
Symptoms of Spinal Compression
The symptoms of spinal compression can develop slowly over time, or they can begin suddenly. The progression depends on the cause of the compression. Tumors or diseases can develop over days or weeks. Age-related wear and tear or osteoarthritis might take years to develop and begin to cause symptoms. The symptoms of an injury to the spine can begin suddenly and be severe from the beginning.
Pain is the main symptom of spinal compression, but it can also cause other symptoms and sensations in the body, including:
- Pain and stiffness in the back
- Numbness in the extremities
- Muscle cramping
- Trouble with coordination
- Loss of sexual ability
The pain associated with spinal compression can occur anywhere in the neck, back, or lower back. It can be in the form of a burning pain that spreads through the buttocks, down into the legs, and to the arms. It can include numbness in the arms, hands, or legs. The symptoms can also include cramping in the back, legs, arms, hands, neck, or feet.
You might experience a lack of sensation in your feet or trouble with coordination. This can cause you to stumble often for no apparent reason, or you might experience difficulty with your hands. It can cause you to suddenly, and unexpectedly, drop things you are holding. Spinal compression can also cause weakness in the foot that causes it to go limp, which is called “foot drop.”
Pressure on the vertebrae in the mid and upper back can cause any or many of these conditions. If the compression is on the lower back in the lumbar region, it can cause more serious symptoms. This is known as cauda equina syndrome. This is a more serious condition and is a reason to seek help in an emergency room.
Then, you can follow up with a chiropractor for spinal adjustments to make sure the condition does not return. The symptoms of cauda equina syndrome include a loss of bowel or bladder control, severe numbness in the groin and upper legs, and severe pain or weakness. The symptoms of these conditions typically begin mildly and then spread to one or both legs. The symptoms can make it difficult to walk or rise from a chair.
Cauda equina syndrome is rare, and most cases of spinal compression are not as severe. Most cases begin slowly and build over time. The most important thing is not to ignore it. Back pain or numbness in the limbs is nothing to fool around with, and many times, it will not simply go away on its own. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with a professional as soon as possible.
Diagnosing the Condition
The first thing a professional will do is to ask you questions about your symptoms. They will want to know when and how they began, whether the pain is sharp or burning, and whether it began in one place and radiated throughout the area. The physician will also want to know about any medical conditions, medications, or injuries that you have experienced.
Once your practitioner has collected the necessary information from you, they will perform a physical exam. Depending on what they find, they might order imaging that includes X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, or other studies. They might order a bone scan, myelogram, or electromyography. Once these tests are complete, the practitioner will have a complete picture of the issue and can proceed to develop treatment options that are right for you.
Once the source of the problem has been found, you might be offered several treatment options. Many times, physicians are quick to jump to the surgical option to correct the problem, but many nonsurgical options exist that can alleviate the pain and help the body to heal on its own.
You might be prescribed medicines that include anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids to reduce inflammation, or painkillers. These drugs are a temporary measure and can help alleviate the symptoms enough to give you time to allow non-surgical solutions to work.
Aside from pain relievers, you might be advised to perform physical therapy, either at a facility or at home. These will be more likely to include exercises to help strengthen your back, legs, abdominal region, and neck. You might be instructed on how to do activities in a way that does not exacerbate or reinjure the spine. Your practitioner might also prescribe a brace or cervical collar to help provide support while you heal.
How Does Spinal Decompression Work?
Spinal decompression is another nonsurgical technique that might help alleviate the pain and numbness caused by spinal compression. Spinal decompression uses a special traction table and spinal adjustment techniques to help realign the spine. The table is motorized and helps to gently stretch and decompress the spine.
Spinal decompression relieves the pressure by creating more space between the vertebrae. This helps to increase the flow of spinal fluid, allowing nutrients to reach the areas where they are needed. decompression therapy was found to be an effective treatment that helped alleviate pressure on the discs and reduce symptoms in patients.
This therapy alleviates pressure that encourages the spine to reposition itself. This can allow the disc to return to its natural position. It can help bulging discs return to their natural state. In some cases, over time, regular decompression therapy can help restore the spine to health.
Preventing Spinal Cord Compression
In some cases, spinal compression cannot be prevented, such as disease or injury, but in some cases, you can help to prevent it. For instance, regular exercise strengthens the muscles that support your spine.
Exercise keeps it flexible and helps protect it from injury. Maintaining a healthy body weight also helps to reduce strain on your spine, which contributes to spinal decompression. Maintaining a good posture is essential to spinal health. If you must continually lift heavy objects, learning to do it properly can help avoid injury.
Many people suffer from back pain, numbness in the extremities, and other symptoms of spinal compression. The good news is that you do not have to continue to let this pain limit your life’s activities. Spinal decompression, combined with other therapies, can help get you the relief you need. It is good to know that nonsurgical treatments can help with back pain, so if you have chronic or severe back pain that puts a damper on the things you love, it is time to contact a professional who can help you get the relief you need.