What is non-surgical spinal decompression therapy?

There are two types of spinal decompression treatments: surgical and nonsurgical. Nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy is used to treat pain in the back, neck, and legs. It involves a process where the spine is gently stretched using a motorized traction table.

What conditions can nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy treat?

Nonsurgical spinal decompression is effective at treating a variety of pain and conditions including:

  • Pinched nerves (also known as compressed nerves)
  • Bulging disks
  • Herniated disks
  • Sciatica
  • Degenerative disk disease
  • Diseased spinal nerve roots
  • Injured spinal nerve roots
  • Facet syndromes (i.e., worn spinal joints)

How does non-surgical spinal decompression therapy work?

The spinal column has twenty-three vertebral disks. These disks are jelly-like cushions that sit between the bones in the spine. During non-surgical spinal decompression, the spine stretches gently, and vertebral disks are pulled apart. This process alleviates pressure on the vertebral disks, which has two primary benefits; first, it allows for retraction of herniated or bulging vertebral disks and helps them move back into place. Second, it promotes the flow of nutrients, water, and oxygen to disks, which facilitates the healing process.

What should I expect from nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy?

The first step in considering nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy as a treatment is seeing a doctor who can diagnose your condition. The doctor will evaluate your condition during a physical exam and will also review any existing medical tests (such as MRI or X-Ray) results. If you have not had these medical examinations, the doctor may order them. After the physical exam is complete and the doctor has reviewed your test results, they will be able to make the determination if you are a good candidate for nonsurgical spinal decompression.

During non-surgical spinal decompression therapy, you lie on a motorized table that connects to a computer system. You remain fully clothed during this process. The doctor will fit you with two support harnesses: one that goes around your pelvis and another that goes around your trunk. The harnesses, which are attached to the table, ensure that your body is properly stabilized during the treatment.

The doctor operates the computer system which gently and slowly moves the lower half of the table. This elongates the spine and relieves pressure on compressed discs. Patients should not experience any pain or discomfort but may experience the sensation of the spine stretching. The therapy, which can last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, can be a very relaxing experience. Some individuals may fall asleep on the table during their treatment.

The doctor will determine the duration of your nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy based on your injury. Average treatments occur over a four- to eight-week period, and you may receive approximately two dozen treatments depending on the extent of your injury.

Additional therapies

As with many types of chiropractic care, your doctor may recommend other treatments and activities to complement your treatment and to help facilitate the healing process. These treatments may include the use of cold or heat therapy on the injured area, the use of ultrasound or gentle electrical stimulation. The doctor may also recommend exercises for you to do at home that will help to increase mobility and strengthen the areas affected by the injury.


Treatment may not be appropriate for some patients

Again, the first step in considering nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy as a treatment is to see a doctor who can diagnose your condition. Nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy may not be appropriate for patients who are pregnant, have a tumor or have a fracture. Additionally, those with metal implants in their spine or individuals with osteoporosis are not good candidates for nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy.