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Spinal decompression works by relieving pressure on the spine and gently stretching it to provide pain relief for a variety of back problems. 

In today’s do-it-yourself world, spinal decompression products for at-home usage are readily available and you may be tempted to try them for your back pain relief. Understand the pros and cons of at-home decompression vs in-office spinal decompression to choose the best option for your back pain problem.

At-home spinal decompression

Home spinal decompression can be performed via simple exercises and/or traction devices and tables available in the market for at-home use by amateurs. 

At-home exercises 

Exercises and stretches to achieve spinal decompression aim to relieve stress on your muscles, improve overall flexibility, and increase muscle strength. Some common exercises include overhead stretching, bar hanging, and yoga poses like the cat and cow stretch, child pose. 

Pros

If you have a sedentary lifestyle, an occupation where your physical activity is very limited, or have poor posture, home exercises and stretches can be helpful when performed correctly. 

Cons

Exercise alone is not sufficient to treat the underlying condition of your back pain and provides only temporary symptomatic relief from pain. Also incorrectly performed exercises can cause injury and aggravate your pain. 

If you are pregnant, have recently undergone spinal surgery or a spinal fracture, or have osteoporosis, you should consult a medical professional before performing home exercises for spinal decompression.

At-home devices 

Home spinal decompression products and back traction devices aim to relieve pressure on your spine by reducing the effects of gravity on your spine through mechanical stretching. Back traction devices include inversion tables, back traction machines for lay-down decompression, and spinal decompression belts.

Inversion table

The inversion table inverts your body and stretches your spine upside down by holding your ankles. Your inverted bodyweight itself acts as a pulling force to stretch your spine on the inversion table.

Pros

Inversion tables are relatively cheap and can be easily operated by anyone. The inversion table uses gravity and your body weight as pull force to stretch your spine and may provide temporary low back pain relief. 

Cons

The table pulls each of your spinal joints equally and cannot work on a targeted area of the spine. It cannot regulate the force exerted during the stretch or create negative pressure on the spine. 

Inversion through uncontrolled force can increase blood pressure, cause muscle spasms, and muscle guarding which is the body’s natural response to uncontrolled stretching. There is no evidence of long-term pain relief or treating the underlying cause of your back pain through inversion. 

The inversion table is not recommended for those suffering from hypertension, osteoporosis, hernia, or spinal fracture. If you are overweight, pregnant, or recently had spinal surgery you should not use the inversion table. 

At-home back traction machines with lay-down spinal stretch or spinal decompression belts have also limited clinical evidence of efficacy for back pain relief and may cause injury or worsen your symptom.

In-office spinal decompression 

Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy effectively treats a variety of back pain problems by creating negative pressure and gently stretching your spine.  The procedure is performed by a physical therapist using advanced medical equipment with sensors linked to a computerized system and the spinal decompression table. 

Unlike the inversion table, spinal decompression creates negative pressure providing effective decompression and stretching. Also, unlike the manual technique, the decompression table’s sensors continuously assess muscle tension so that the force can be decreased to prevent muscle guarding. The table’s sensors and adjustable bed also allow the spine to stretch at multiple angles for targeted decompression and pain relief. 

Compared to surgical options for back pain, spinal decompression is a very cost-effective and pain-free procedure with no downtime and no side effects. 

Spinal decompression therapy can be performed on almost anyone irrespective of age, though it is not recommended for pregnant women and those suffering from a spinal fracture, osteoporosis, or those who had recent spinal surgery with metal implants. 

Numerous studies and research have confirmed the safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of non-surgical spinal decompression for the treatment of underlying conditions of your back pain like a herniated disc, sciatica, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and provide immediate as well as long-term pain relief. 

Conclusion

Though at-home decompression may seem like a good option to get relief from your back pain, it comes with numerous risks and can lead to worsening of symptoms or even serious injury to your spine. 

Spinal decompression therapy performed by a physical therapist is a safe, effective, and proven option for long-term pain relief from your back pain problems. 

Looking to learn more? Think this treatment is for you? Contact our office today for your consultation with our expert team.