If you are in a situation debating whether a series of in-office spinal decompression treatments or spinal decompression surgery is the right choice for you, this article will help give you some key information on both procedures.
We reference spinal decompression in two ways, we refer to it as either non-surgical spinal decompression therapy (this is performed in a physical therapy office) or spinal decompression surgery (this is performed in a hospital with the patient under anesthetic).
What is non-surgical spinal decompression?
Non-surgical spinal decompression is a safe, non-invasive, pain-free procedure. It doesn’t have the side effects common with surgical treatments. It requires no recovery time and can be performed on virtually any adult
Spinal decompression therapy is performed using a piece of medical equipment that looks like a table hooked up to a large computer. This is the spinal decompression table. The patient lays down on the table and the computer-aided technology works by controlling the table to gently stretch the spine. The stretch relieves pressure off the herniated disc, pinched nerves, and other spinal structures.
Unlike traction, where the body’s reaction is to pull in the opposite direction of the stretch, spinal decompression therapy is aided by sensors that gauge muscle tension and adjust the pull. This is to prevent muscle guarding, thereby providing effective and targeted decompression.
Spinal decompression therapy promotes retraction or repositioning of bulging or herniated disc thereby helps to reduce the pain.
The procedure encourages natural healing by increasing the circulation of healing nutrients and takes only 30-60 minutes per session in a physical therapy office.
If you are pregnant, have severe osteoporosis, recently suffered from spinal fractures or infections, recently had spinal surgery with metal implants then you may not be the ideal candidate for this procedure.
Non-surgical spinal decompression is an effective alternative to back surgery and may be the right treatment option for your back-pain relief.
What is spinal decompression surgery?
Back surgery often involves the removal of significant portions of the bone and muscles forming your spine. Some of these intrinsic muscles are primarily responsible for providing stability to the spine and their removal adversely affects normal movement of the spine.
Typically, surgery is only recommended when the damage is possibly irreversible. If the bulging or herniated disc causes bowel or bladder problems, generally immediate surgery is recommended. Surgery may be recommended if your symptoms worsen rapidly. However, in most cases, immediate surgery is not advised.
Examples of surgical spinal decompression procedures
There are several procedures to achieve spinal decompression and one or more procedures may be suggested to relieve the pressure on the spine.
- Discectomy: This procedure leads to the removal of a portion of the intervertebral disc to release pressure on nerves. The removed portion is replaced with an implant made of bone or other substitutes that eventually fuses with the vertebrae.
- Laminotomy: The procedure leads to the removal of a small portion of the lamina to relieve pressure on nerve roots. The lamina is the flattened or arched part that forms the roof of the spinal canal. By trimming the lamina, the spinal canal widens thereby relieving pressure on the spinal nerves.
- Laminectomy: This procedure is similar to laminotomy and is generally used to treat spinal stenosis. Unlike laminotomy where a small portion of the lamina is removed, this procedure involves the removal of one or both sides of the lamina. The procedure is generally used to treat spinal stenosis.
- Foraminotomy: This procedure helps enlarge the vertebral foramen which leads to an increase in the size of the nerve path. The foramen is an opening of the vertebra formed by the frontal and the posterior part of the vertebral arch. This surgery is often done along with laminotomy and is also performed to remove bone spurs.
- Corpectomy: This procedure removes a vertebra and adjacent discs. The removal helps the cervical spine and nerves to relieve pressure and decompress thereby providing pain relief. Since a portion of the vertebra is removed, the spine is usually stabilized using metal implants or bone grafts
- Facetectomy: Each vertebra has two sets of facet joints that provide structural stability to the vertebral column. This surgical procedure removes a part of the facet thereby increase the space between the joints and relieving pressure.
- Spinal Fusion surgery: This procedure connects two or more vertebrae and thereby stabilized the spine. The procedure is designed to provide stability to the spine after the removal of a herniated disc. The procedure uses metal implants including plates, screws, and rods to hold the vertebra.
Surgery may not be ideal for some patients due to age, immunity level as the procedure is invasive and there is additional risk associated with anesthesia. Moreover, the prohibitive cost of surgery is often a deterrent to many.
Post-surgery involves a long recovery time and extensive therapy to regain the full range of motion for your spine.
Always check with your doctor before making any healthcare decision as everyone has their own unique situation.
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