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What is Spinal Decompression Therapy? How can it help?

Published by Dr. Alden Clendenin

Most people have heard of nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy though they may not know what it does or why it’s done. If you have severe back pain, you may be able to use this option to gently stretch the spine, reducing your pain and changing the position of the spine back to its original state. Your spinal discs are gel-like cushions that fit between the bones of your spine, but when the fluid inside dries up or lessens, it can create negative pressure on the disc. Therefore, it can lead to herniated discs and severe pain. However, with the therapy, the herniated disc can retract, which will take the pressure off your nerves and spine. This will help promote the movement of oxygen, nutrients and water into the discs, allowing them to heal.

What It Treats


In essence, this type of therapy can help with the back pain, though it can also help with sciatica, neck pain and other pains. Sciatica is a weakness, pains or tingling that start in the lower back/buttock area and extends down the leg. It can also help treat herniated or bulging discs, degenerative disc disease, worn spinal joints or diseased and injured nerve roots in the spine.

Although approved by the FDA as a safe and efficient treatment, more research needs to be done to ensure the effectiveness and safety of this procedure. Studies should be done against this and other options, such as acupuncture, exercise, steroid injections and others.

How It’s Done


You will be fully clothed for the therapy, and the doctor will place a harness around the pelvis and trunk. You will lie down on a computer-controlled table, either on your back or your stomach. The computer is operated by the doctor, and he will customize the treatment to your needs.

Typically, treatments last less than an hour, though it may require up to 30 treatments to be successful. These options will last from five to seven weeks. Other options may be used in conjunction with spinal decompression therapy, including heat/cold therapy, ultrasound and electrical stimulation, which will help your muscles contract.

Those who are pregnant and people with any of the following conditions should not have this therapy:

  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
  • Fractures
  • Tumors
  • Osteoporosis
  • Those with spinal metal implants


You may also ask your doctor whether you are a suitable candidate for this therapy, and you may have other therapies first.

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