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What is Back Decompression?

Back pain is a horrible thing to live with. A constant ache or the occasional, but intense shooting pains can make just everyday living difficult. Often that pain is a result of nerves becoming pinched or sandwiched. This can happen in many different ways, but all of them result in serious and often long-lasting pain.

One example of a source of the pinching is a herniated disc. Currently affecting a large percentage of the people in this country, herniated discs are formed when the bone of the spine is damaged. As a result, the disc bulges or even bursts open. When this happens, the bone presses on nerve roots resulting in serious pain. It can also affect the surrounding muscles, ligaments and other connective tissue. The compression on the nerve, however, is what causes the lasting ache and the sudden spasms. This is a reaction of the muscles, which is meant as a defense mechanism. The body is trying to isolate the pain.

In order to alleviate the pain in many patients, a technique called decompression is used. This may be referred to as back decompression, vertebral decompression, lumbar decompression, or traction. All have the same meaning. The goal is to relieve the pressure being placed on the nerves and muscles.

Traction is a non-invasive procedure, which was first used by Dr. Allan Dyer in 1985. Light decompression can be done through a series of manual exercises, but for a deeper stretch, there is specialized equipment required. Home models are now available in stores, but it is always considered safer to let someone who has been trained – chiropractor, physical therapist, or other medical professional – oversee the procedure, which involves stretching the body in order to elongate the spine and open up the area between the spinal discs. This allows nerves to get out of the way and takes away the pressure that has been placed on them.

In severe cases, there is also a surgical method of decompression. Two different methods can be used, depending on the needs of the patient. Microdiscectomy is the practice of removing very small sections of bone that have caused irritation or pinching of nearby nerves. This provides a large space for the nerve to reside and often allows for very quick healing. A lumbar laminectomy is a treatment of the condition called spinal stenosis, which is a leading cause of compressed nerves. Enlarged joints place undue pressure on the nerves. Again, this method requires the removal of small pieces of bone in order to free up space for the nerves.

This procedure – both the non-invasive and surgical methods — can provide short term relief in the moment and, done repeatedly, has been found to have outstanding long-term effects as well because it allows damaged nerves and muscles to heal.

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