Is Spinal Decompression Therapy Right for Your Back Pain?


Nonsurgical spinal decompression is a back pain treatment that includes gentle stretching of the spine to adjust its the position and force. It is a type of motorized traction that alleviates pressure from the spinal discs, or the substances between the spine that contain a gel-like material, by causing negative pressure in this area. The purpose of spinal decompression is to retract herniated discs by taking the pressure off the spine and nerves. Spinal decompression also supports the transportation of oxygen, water, and fluids that carry nutrients into the discs to promote healing and reduce inflammation.

Conditions that may benefit from spinal decompression include:

  • Neck pain, back pain or sciatica (a condition characterized by tingling, weakness or pain in the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back/hip down the leg)
  • Posterior facet syndrome, or worn out spinal joints
  • Spinal nerve root injuries or diseases
  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Degenerative disc disease

Holistic Treatment Strategy

Many health experts pair spinal decompression with other forms of treatment to alleviate pain. These may include rest, ice or heat therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, exercise, steroid injections, braces, acupuncture or chiropractic care.

During the 30 to 45 minute long procedure, the patient remains fully clothed. He or she will be fitted with two harnesses: one around their pelvis and another around their trunk. The patient will either lie face up or face down on a table that is operated by a computer. A physician will operate the table to the patient’s needs.

A patient may need to seek anywhere from 20 to 28 treatments over a period of five to seven weeks for maximum results. Patients may also incorporate other forms of therapy into their treatment sessions either both or after the procedure, including heat or cold therapy, ultrasound (the practice of using sound waves to promote healing through heat generation) and electrical stimulation or the use of electric currents to cause muscle contractions.