Many people tend to think of spinal issues only in extreme terms when they lead to debilitating pain or loss of function. However, there is a whole spectrum of less severe symptoms and conditions that also require a skilled chiropractor’s attention. One of these is spinal compression. While spinal compression is more of a side effect than a root condition, it can still lead to several problems.
The good news is that there are several ways to treat this issue, including spinal decompression. This method is treatable with two different options, surgical and non-surgical, and both can be effective. Here is what they do and how they can help you.
What Leads to Spinal Compression Issues
Spinal compression occurs when the spinal cord or nerve roots in the spinal cord have excess pressure (compression) caused by an external factor. Examples include bulging or collapsed disks, loose ligaments, thickened joints, and bone growth. Sometimes, these are issues that occur over time, like the way the body and bones change during aging. In other cases, they can be the after-effect of a traumatic accident that causes a sudden spinal injury.
In either case, the symptoms are relatively similar, and most people with spinal decompression can experience:
- Pain and stiffness, especially in the neck or lower back
- Sciatica, a burning pain that spreads to the arms and down the legs
- Numbness, cramps, and weakness in the extremities
- Loss of sensation in the feet
- Loss of sexual ability
There are also more extreme symptoms that occur when there is heavy pressure on nerves in the lumbar region, the lower part of your back. These include loss of bowel control, increasing numbness in the inner legs and back of legs, and severe weakness and pain in one or both legs. These symptoms are an indication of a far more dangerous situation and require medical intervention right away. However, for most situations, you can afford the time to research the most effective options, spinal decompression included.
Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression
Compared to conventional chiropractic techniques, spinal decompression is the new kid on the block, scientifically, although it uses tried and true techniques that have been around for a while. Let’s illustrate this by looking at its non-surgical form. Non-surgical spinal decompression uses a motorized table and harness to both stretch and relax the spine. The concept behind this is to perform dual benefits:
- Create a negative pressure that promotes retraction or repositioning of herniated or bulging discs.
- Use that same lower pressure to promote the influx of healthy nutrients into the affected area.
At the surface, this doesn’t sound too different than the traditional spinal traction treatment that chiropractors have been using for ages, but this is only partially true. While traction treatments stretch the spine, decompression treatments do it in a different manner. In essence, non-surgical spinal decompression tricks the muscles in the spinal area, keeping them from tightening or spasming during the decompression process.
The result is a relatively painless process, a welcome fact to those who are used to an intense physical therapy routine. While some report feeling relief instantly after a session, on average, it takes a bit longer. For most people, it takes roughly 20 sessions to see long-term effects. Many chiropractors will also recommend combining this with other interventions like home exercises and cold/heat therapy. However, for many people, these treatment sessions are worth it to not have to deal with an invasive procedure or prescription medications that mask pain without addressing the root problem.
Surgical Spinal Decompression
While it is a good option for many, the non-surgical approach to spinal decompression isn’t appropriate for everyone. This can include pregnant women or people who have had spinal fusion or broken vertebrae in the past. At this point, surgical spinal decompression may be the best option. There are several different types of spinal decompression surgery that you may need depending on your back issues. Here is a profile of some of the common ones:
- Diskectomy: Your surgeon removes a portion of the disk in this situation, designed to help relieve pressure on nerves.
- Laminotomy or laminectomy: Here, the surgeon focuses on a small portion of bone. This is designed to increase the size of the spinal canal and relieve pressure on nerves.
- Foraminotomy or foraminectomy: Targeted specifically for pinched nerves, the surgeon removes bone and tissue to expand openings for your nerve roots.
- Osteophyte removal: This removes bony growths in the spine area.
You may also need spinal fusion to stabilize your spine following the surgery, depending on the nature of the procedure. After your surgery, expect to spend 4 to 5 days in the hospital, followed by a lengthy rehabilitation process, pain medication, and physical therapy. The good news is that this has a fairly high success rate. Surgery to relieve pressure on nerve roots is successful in relieving pain in approximately 70%-90% of patients.
Where to Start Getting Help
Figuring out whether non-surgical or surgical decompression is the choice for you will generally boil down to the recommendations of a skilled chiropractor. They can take the severity of your compression, your past medical history, and other potential issues into account. Reach out to our experts at Boev Clinic today to learn if spinal decompression is the right solution for you.