Lower back pains affect about 31 million adults, accounting for 3.6 million outpatient visits in US hospitals. Studies have shown that a lot of money is spent treating lower back pains more than any other health condition. Spinal traction decompression therapy is one of the alternative nonsurgical treatments of spinal cord problems.

The therapy reverses the impact that gravity has on the spinal cord enabling the body to maintain balance. It also increases the space in-between the vertebrae to help the spine heal. Spinal decompression/ traction treatment helps relieve pain and reduce nerve compression of the neck and lower back if performed by a qualified physical therapist.

We have not been left behind at Suarez Physical Therapy clinic in providing spinal traction/spinal decompression therapy to treat spine-related conditions. Our skilled physical therapists understand the spine is a critical part of the human body. Thus, they strive to deliver the best possible treatment to our patients. If you want to undergo this therapy in Las Vegas, Nevada, please don’t hesitate to call us. We will walk you through the procedure and perform it with the comfort you deserve.

Overview of Spinal Decompression/Spinal Traction

Most people believe that spinal traction and spinal decompression therapy are one thing. And even though they are used interchangeably, these two therapies are different. However, they serve a similar purpose, which is to treat or improve various spine-related conditions, including:

  • Sciatica (leg and thigh pain)
  • Lower back and neck pain, either long-lasting or recent, that’s of a mechanical cause.
  • Pinched nerves (nerve compression)
  • Disc protrusion or bulging
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Narrowed nerve tunnels (stenosis of the spine)
  • Facet syndrome

Spinal Traction

Traction refers to the act of pulling or drawing. When a specialist uses their hands or any other mechanical device to exert force on the spinal cord, it’s known as spinal traction. Spinal traction therapy is classified into two: manual and mechanical spinal traction. This therapy aims at stretching the spine to promote an optimum healing environment for the conditions mentioned above. The therapist applies a moderate or gentle force on the spinal cord to separate its vertebrae or bones.

  1. Manual Spinal traction— In manual traction, a physical therapist uses his/her hands to place you in a traction state. They then exert force manually on the muscles and joints to increase the spaces in-between vertebrae.
  2. Mechanical traction— Here, you’ll lie on a traction table or any other similar motorized equipment with special tools to stretch and straighten the spinal cord. Your physical therapist then attaches slings, pulleys, and ropes to your body to relieve the pressure mechanically. Mechanical traction is further categorized into two:
    1. Lumbar traction— Here, you are fully clothed during the process. You will be lying either on your stomach or back based on the treatment plan the physical therapist has established to be the best for your condition. The therapist then places a harness around your hips and attaches it to a mechanical device. The device digitally applies a varying amount of force, as set by your physical therapist. As the device exerts the decompression force, the table separates. Your upper body will remain in a fixed position, whereas your lower body will be capable of sliding forth and back, allowing traction and relaxation to occur.
    2. Cervical traction— Just like in lumbar traction, you’ll remain entirely clothed or wear a gown. Then you will lie on your back, and the therapist will place your head into a comfortable device that secures the head just below the ears. The traction device digitally exerts a varying degree of force as set by your physical therapist.

Spinal Decompression Therapy

Decompression means reducing or releasing the physical pressure on something or having the pressure reduced or released. Spinal decompression is, therefore, therapy performed to take the pressure off the spine. It is a non-invasive process and works by mildly stretching the spinal cord, which changes the spine position and force.

This change takes the pressure off the spinal discs by creating negative pressure in the discs (spinal discs are gel-like cushions between the vertebrae). Consequently, herniated or bulging discs might retract, taking the pressure off the nerves and any other structure in your spinal cord. This then helps enhance the movement of oxygen, water, and nutrient-rich fluids into the discs so they can heal and relieves back pain, too.

Spinal decompression is effective and safe without the usual risks associated with invasive procedures like anesthesia, surgery, or injections.

You’re fully clothed during the spinal decompression process. The therapist fits you with a harness around your trunk and another around your pelvis. He/she will then ask you to lie either face-up or face down on a computer-operated table. Note that this table is similar to a traction table, except that it uses advanced technology.

Your therapist straps you to this table, which he/she controls using a computer program. He/she operates the computer, customizing treatment to your specific needs. The table moves, and as it does, it produces a distraction force to the targeted area of your spinal cord. The distraction force is followed by a relaxation process that creates a vacuum effect and repositions the disc. Apart from realigning the disc, the vacuum effect also encourages fresh blood supply, which enhances healing.

Treatment can last ten to fifteen minutes, and you might need twenty to twenty-eight sessions over between five and seven weeks. After and before therapy, you might undergo other kinds of treatment, like:

  • Ultrasound —Using soundwaves to generate heat and enhance healing.
  • Electrical stimulation —Using an electric current to cause particular muscles to contract.
  • Cold or heat therapy
  • Therapeutic exercise

The primary difference between spinal decompression and spinal traction is the use of a computer. The computer program creates variations in the traction pull instead of just pulling on your spinal cord at a preset force and rate. The spinal decompression system adapts to your body’s reaction and enables you to keep your body relaxed. This usually makes the treatment highly effective than what regular traction can achieve.

For instance, while spinal traction may decrease spinal disc pressure to as low as 40 mmHg, spinal decompression is the only therapy that has been proven to achieve a negative pressure within the spinal cord. It’s been clinically shown that decompression creates a negative pressure of as low as 110 mmHg within injured discs during the therapy session.

Usually, the therapist’s force on the spinal cord triggers sensory receptors in the back to tighten the muscles surrounding the discs and vertebrae to protect them from injuries. This is the body mechanism called the proprioceptor response.

Spinal decompression bypasses this response by slowly pulling on the spinal cord and relaxing the back over a prolonged period, enabling the spinal cord to reposition without any tension. It’s critical to ensure that you’re treated on a high-quality decompression table and not its imitation.

What Spinal Decompression or Traction Does

Spinal traction or decompression has the following proposed effects:

Facet Joint Mobilization

Various effects on facet joints are translation, sliding, separation, distraction, approximation, or compression of facet surfaces. Whereas there’s no empirical evidence, this movement leads to increased blood components and range of motion at the joints. Studies show that mobilization affects blood component levels and reduces inflammatory proteins.

Thus, it is recommended as a possible therapeutic method to lower inflammatory response, functioning as an anti-inflammatory mechanism. Spinal manipulative therapy relieves inflammatory cytokines but not substance P production in normal subjects.

Mechanical Spine Elongation

The consequence of spinal traction is decompression. Decompression here means the mechanical separation of the vertebrae, which in turn:

  • Slides the facet joints
  • Straightens spinal curves
  • Expands the intervertebral foramina
  • Exerts slight tension on the facet joint capsules and ligaments
  • Stretches the spine muscles

Pain Reduction

These are the proposed spinal traction/decompression effects that result in pain reduction:

  1. There’s a higher blood circulation due to the movement, which may decrease stricture from circulatory congestion. Enhancing this circulation helps reduce the concentration of painful chemical irritants in the joints.
  2. Separating the vertebra through spinal traction/decompression widens (increases) the neuroforamen (space where nerves exit the spine). This reduces the pressure exerted on any affected nerve root.
  3. Stretching tight tissues can enhance movement reducing pain due to strain or stress on pain nerve endings (nociceptors)
  4. Stimulating joint mechanoreceptors blocks the transmission of painful stimuli to the brain stem level, leading to pain relief.
  5. Tension on facet joints or a distraction of facet joint surfaces may release entrapped meniscus (cartilage in-between the facet joints)

Muscle Relaxation

There’s a reduction in the pain produced from spasm and muscle guarding and a significant vertebral separation during muscle relaxation. Muscle relaxation occurs through the neurophysiological process since muscle and joint sensory organ stimulation/stress reduces muscle tension and contraction. Both of these effects are advantageous when it comes to relieving pressure on the vertebral column.

Spinal Traction/Spinal Decompression Therapy Contraindications

Stretching the spinal cord to alleviate back pain isn’t appropriate for particular patients. These groups of patients aren’t good candidates to undergo spinal traction or spinal decompression therapy:

  • Patients who have undergone spinal fusion performed less than one year ago
  • Pregnant women
  • Patients with failed back surgery
  • Patients with broken vertebrae
  • Severely obese patients
  • Those with an artificial disc or any other implant in the spinal cord performed less than one year ago
  • Patients with severe nerve damage
  • Patients with osteoporosis (a condition in which bones become weak and brittle)
  • Any person who has undergone multiple surgical procedures without recovery (pain improvement)
  • A patient with any of these conditions is also not the right candidate:
  • Spinal tumor
  • Spinal infection
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Spinal fractures
  • Any condition that needs the patient to take blood thinner medication
  • Any condition that might compromise the integrity of the spinal cord

Your physical therapist will conduct an individual assessment to determine if you’re suitable to undergo any of these processes during the initial consultation.

Is Spinal Traction/Decompression Ideal for You?

There are several ways through which spinal traction/decompression can alleviate spinal cord-related pain. The important thing is finding out whether therapy is ideal for you. It all depends on delivering the right treatment to the right patient, the right spinal condition/disorder, and proper timing. This is based on the stage at which the spinal condition is, the diagnosis, and most importantly, a trial that will help establish that it’s safe for you.

It’s worth noting that not every spinal condition responds to spinal decompression or traction. Believe it or not, this therapy can aggravate certain conditions. An evaluation by a skilled specialist will help identify contraindications.

Benefits of Spinal Traction/Spinal Decompression

Spinal traction decompression therapy comes with several benefits. They include:

  • It creates less pressure in your spinal discs, which relieves pain and promotes disc nutrition.
  • It enlarges the tunnels through which nerves leave the spinal cord (neuroforamen), thus enabling the nerves to breathe, regain proper blood circulation, and not become pinched.
  • This therapy reduces bulge or protrusion in the spinal discs by extracting the gel nucleus toward the disc’s center.
  • Decompressing or stretching of painful or arthritic spinal joints from the effects of poor posture and constant gravity acting on your body
  • It allows for the stretching or lengthening of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
  • It creates negative intradiscal pressure to enhance the repositioning of the bulging or herniated disc.
  • Spinal traction/spinal decompression treats a wide range of spine conditions. The therapy can be used as a treatment plan for several health conditions at ago, some of which we have mentioned above.
  • Surgery is not necessary. Treatment with either of these therapies does not need invasive surgery. Instead, it relies on the application of controlled force on your spine. You simply lie on a table while a machine or your physical therapist applies pressure. Clothing may sometimes be repositioned, but it is rarely removed.
  • These therapies can be performed together with several other treatments— these therapies can be used alongside other treatments for a more holistic and personalized health plan. Some physical therapies that could be included are hot or cold therapy, ultrasound stimulation, FDN and electric stimulation (after or during the session)
  • Spinal traction/spinal decompression enhances overall healing. When pressure is properly exerted on the spinal discs, it releases healing nutrients that accelerate the body’s natural healing process. These therapies also increase the effectiveness of other treatments, leading to faster general recovery.
  • The therapy improves blood circulation, making it simple for the joints and muscles to access the oxygen and nutrients they need. Improved blood circulation also creates less pressure on the spinal discs, nutrients to these discs increases, thus making them heal much faster.

Preparing for Spinal Traction/Spinal Decompression Therapy

Before you can undergo any of these procedures, you must speak with your physical therapist to develop a total-management physical therapy plan. Mostly, these therapies work as an enhancement of other forms of therapy. Your specialist may recommend at-home exercises before the procedure, though this is usually not necessary.

After the treatment, recommendations may include rest, drinking up to a half-gallon of water every day, using nutritional supplements, and performing various exercises at home to promote mobility and strength.

Treatment Costs

Your physician may recommend spinal traction or spinal decompression therapy as a possible treatment for different lower back pain conditions. However, it’s your decision whether you want to undergo the treatment or not, just like it is with all the other lower back pain treatment options. You may need to have either of these therapies mainly because the risk is low, and the benefits are so many.

As we mentioned, decompression and traction therapies take a series of 20 to 28 treatments that last between 10-15 minutes each over five to seven weeks, along with prescribed therapeutic exercise. These sessions will take place in your physical therapist practitioner’s office

The charges per session typically range between $30 and $200. This means that a suggested series of treatments will generally cost between $450 and $6,000. Most insurance companies may pay for spinal traction, spinal decompression therapy; however, check with your individual insurance carrier to confirm.

Find a Skilled Physical Therapist Near Me

Lasting back pains or other spine-related problems can be disruptive to your life. During these times you want to find relief asap. Most people rush to undergo surgery to have their spinal problems solved. However, there are still effective nonsurgical ways to eliminate this pain and solve other spine conditions. This is spinal traction/spinal decompression therapy.

If you wish to undergo this therapy in Las Vegas, Nevada, our experienced physical therapists at Suarez Physical Therapy clinic will proudly serve you. You will have made the right decision to trust us with your health since we are the leading physical therapists for treating lumbar and cervical problems.

We will determine the cause of your problem after identifying the symptoms. Then, we will design an effective spinal traction decompression treatment plan to speed up healing. Please call us at 702-368-6778 to learn more about our spinal traction/spinal decompression procedure or schedule a consultation.