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Axial Disc Decompression: Another Arrow in Our Quiver

We are excited about Decompression Therapy as many of our patients have already benefited from this treatment. Be sure to let us know if you have questions about this treatment after you read the following description.

This treatment uses a special table designed to apply long axis distraction to either the cervical or lumbar spine. A special control head allows the programming of different variables to personalize the treatment process, which includes the amount, duration and speed of pull along with time of rest between pulls.

Although we occasionally use this treatment for patients who have just neck or back pain, the most common indication for its use is leg and arm pain that occurs from a disc injury irritating a nerve in the back or neck. Centralization of pain (often seen in end-range motions) has been shown to be an excellent clinical indication that the disc's outer annulus is still 'intact' and thus more amenable to natural resolution/healing (the so-called sub-ligamentous lesion). Centralization is also a clinical indication of the benefit of axial distraction. Patients often report centralization during or soon after a treatment giving a viable indicator for a good prognosis and reducing the potential for surgical intervention.

There is a suggestion in the literature that extruded nuclear material may be "drawn in" by the reduction of intra-discal pressures and/or the tightening of the posterior longitudinal ligament. This concept however is not uniformly accepted due to the limited number of studies able to differentiate the natural history of disc herniation vs. the direct effect of treatment. Many authorities conclude it is not so much something is structurally improved as an inflammatory response to injury or foreign matter is reduced.

On occasion Decompression treatment is used by itself but typically it is one element of a more comprehensive plan of management. Patients find it relaxing to lie on this special table designed to gently open the disc space. They are belted in to stabilize the spine and a protocol is entered based on their weight and severity of pain. Each treatment takes between twenty and thirty minutes. A series of passive decompression treatments will centralize the pain and significantly reduce the disc pressure so the patient can then benefit from more traditional chiropractic care and therapeutic exercises.


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