Warragul Chiropractic prides itself on using the latest in evidence-based spinal therapies. Spinal manipulation has been extensively researched over many years and has demonstrated effectiveness and safety in the treatment of a range of spinal disorders 1.
Over the past two decades spinal decompression/ distraction therapy has emerged as an important therapy for assisting the management of spine related nerve pain such as the debilitating condition known as sciatica. Spinal decompression is a significant step forward in the application, effectiveness and safety of traditional traction-based spinal therapies.
What Conditions May Benefit From Decompression?
- Sciatica (leg pain, weakness or numbness/tingling originating in the low back) 2
- Brachialgia (arm pain, weakness or numbness/tingling originating in the neck) 6
- Pain due to Herniated, Protruding or Prolapsed Discs 2,3,4,5
- Pain due to Arthritis and disc degeneration 7,8,9
- Spinal Stenosis 7,8,9
- Failed back Surgery 10
How Does Decompression Work?
Decompression therapy is applied using precise gentle computer programmed movements (using an automated table) or applied by the practitioner at specific vertebral levels (Cox Technic). As the spine is gently stretched, pressure is reduced within the intervertebral discs, the nerve canals are widened, joints are opened and surrounding soft tissues and joints are stretched. 11,12
Decompression therapy is thought to have the following effects:
- Disc conditions – as bulges or herniation's are drawn in during decompression, the transfer of essential nutrients and oxygen may facilitate the disc to heal.
- Nerve Conditions – nerve pressure is reduced which may return blood flow and nutrients to swollen, inflamed or damaged nerve tissues.
- Joint Conditions – Pressure is released from stiff and inflamed joints which may assist the return of normal spinal movements.
Warragul Chiropractic has two specifically designed decompression instruments.
How Strong is the Evidence for Decompression Therapy?
To date, decompression therapy trials have been small and have lacked long-term follow-up. Whilst there have been some promising results, at this time there is insufficient evidence to recommend this therapy over other spinal therapies for back pain and sciatica management. A recent extensive review of the research found:
"For clinical practice, the short-term pain reduction and functional improvements provided by traction(decompression therapy) can be clinically worthy, considering the potential to improve"
This decompression therapy slowly and gently lengthens the spine through precise computer programmed movements.
Treatments typically take between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on the spine region being targeted and the severity of the condition. The table has an advanced computer-controlled biofeedback response which controls decompression forces in real-time. This feature allows for very gentle stretching forces to be applied to the spine, all but eliminating unwanted muscle spasms, a side-effect frequently associated with conventional traction tables.
The Cox 8 tables unique design allows the practitioner to manually apply very precise decompression (distraction) therapy at selected spinal levels. Certified Cox practitioners are expertly trained to apply specific forces to the spine. Warragul Chiropractic is fortunate to have practitioners who have received this specialised training in the USA.
Which Decompression Method is Best for Me?
Your practitioner will take a thorough history and perform a careful examination to determine whether your condition is suitable for decompression therapy. Most conditions suitable for decompression will respond well on both devices, however there are some specific cases in which one may be selected over the other.
How Long Until I Feel Better?
Your experience with pain is individual, so your relief time is unique to you as well.
With this in mind, published clinical outcomes can give you an idea of what to expect.
General Healing Time
- Bones heal rather quickly if they have a steady blood supply: 5-6 weeks.
- Ligament and tendons take a bit longer: 6-8 weeks.
- Discs and cartilage take the longest: 3 months or more.
If you have a mixture of these factors, it may take some time. Other health related issues may increase your healing time, for example, diabetes, obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle.
Disc Healing Time
Whilst every case is different, it is generally recommended that 3 months be allowed for a disc to heal. Like a broken arm that stops having pain after a few days in a cast, you still need to wear the cast for many weeks to allow healing. Your back may also stop hurting early in your treatment plan, but you will have to give space for your disc to heal before challenging it with more demanding activities like prolonged sitting, bending, lifting and twisting. 14
Like a broken arm that stops having pain after a few days in a cast, you still have to wear the cast for many weeks to allow healing. Your back may also stop hurting early on in the treatment care plan, but you will have to give space for your disc to heal for at least 3 months
Your Expected Healing Time
"Control, Not Cure" for spine pain relief:
Our practitioners embrace the principle "Control, Not Cure" when dealing with chronic spine pain conditions. Whilst a large percentage of patients have excellent relief with therapy,15 so often the underlying source of pain doesn't just go away. For instance, a severely damaged disc, scoliosis and spondylolisthesis are spinal conditions with you for life. Your chiropractor identifies such conditions and will advise on how to manage or prevent future painful episodes and improve your quality of life.
6. Fritz et al. Exercise Only, Exercise with Mechanical Traction, or Exercise With Over-Door Traction for Patients With Cervical Radiculopathy, With or Without Consideration of Status on a Previously Described Subgrouping Rule: A Randomized Clinical Trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2014;44(2):45–57. Epub 9 January 2014. doi:10.2519/jospt.2014.5065
7. Ammendolia C et al: Comprehensive Nonsurgical Treatment Versus Self-directed Care to Improve Walking Ability in Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: A Randomized Trial. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 Dec;99(12):2408-2419.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2018.05.014
9. Murphy, DR; Hurwitz, EL; Gregory, AA; Clary, R. A non-surgical approach to the management of lumbar spinal stenosis: A prospective observational cohort study. BMC MUSCULOSKELETAL DISORDERS 2006; 7:NIL_1-NIL_8
14. Hirschberg G: Treating Lumbar Disc Lesion by Prolonged Continuous Reduction of Intradiscal Pressure. Texas Medicine 1974; vol. 70: 58-68
15. Cox, JM, Feller JA, Cox JA: Distraction Chiropractic Adjusting: Clinical Application, Treatment Algorithms, and Clinical Outcomes of 1000 Cases Studied. Topics in Clinical Chiropractic 1996; (3)3:45-59, 79-81