Decompression Vs. Back Surgery: What You Need To Know

Picture this, a mother bends over to pick up her heavy toddler, a factory worker picks up parts off of the floor, a gardener pulls a stubborn weed from the ground; what do all of these people have in common? Well, now they all have back pain. Pain that results from bending or twisting incorrectly while trying to pick up or pull on something. Because of this injury, back surgery may be suggested, however, spinal decompression could be what is actually needed.

Back pain is a very common occurrence and can generally be taken care of with over the counter pain medication, herbal remedies or maybe a trip to the emergency room for an injection of pain medication. But what happens when these treatments either don’t work, or fail to work later down the road? What is the next step in treating back pain?

Spinal decompression can often be a safer, much less invasive alternative to traditional back surgery. While surgery definitely has a time and a place for its use, the recovery time and pain involved is much more intrusive than spinal decompression, often with the same results. Before discussing decompression with your health care provider, it is important to understand if a particular injury can be corrected using this method.

A herniated disc is by far the most common spinal injury that is easily treated using decompression as opposed to surgery. When a disc is herniated, it basically is squeezed between the vertebra of the spine, causing pain which can, at times, become severe. Spinal decompression works to alleviate pressure from the discs, allowing it to shrink to a more normal size.

Another common condition that can affect the back is degenerative disc disease. This issue affects us as we age, and while common, still causes pain for many people. As we age, there is continuous pressure placed on the spinal column; this causes the spaces between the vertebrae to shrink, causing compressed nerves and the common back ache. Decompression can help to ease the pressure on the discs, thereby lessening the pain.

Spinal decompression is performed using a traction machine that gently stretches the spine. This stretching eliminates the pressure of the spinal discs and changes the actual position of the spine. As the treatments progress, this stretching and repositioning of the spine will allow the discs to repair themselves, fully or partially, to stop the back pain. This procedure is done in a doctor’s office and may require several treatments.

It is important that the patient know as much about any medical procedure, including spinal decompression, as possible. Talk to your health care professional regarding any questions, or fears, which may be an issue. If spinal decompression looks as though it is a viable option in a situation, speak with the medical insurance company to be sure that it is covered before allowing the procedures to begin.

Remember that while decompression can be a great alternative for surgery in some cases, it may not be the right choice for other cases. Learn more on how decompression surgery is performed.