Symptoms and treatment
Millions of people around the world suffer with debilitating back pain every day. Often, the pain is caused by a compressed disc that is pinching a nerve or the spinal cord. There are surgical and non-surgical options for disc decompression, once the condition is diagnosed by a qualified physician.
How do I know if I have a compressed disc?
The symptoms of a compressed disc vary from person to person, depending on the severity and placement of the injury. Symptoms include but are not limited to: pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, stiffness and unsteadiness. In extreme cases, there could be paralysis and problems with bladder or bowel function. These symptoms typically present themselves in the neck, lower back, arms and legs. The middle of the back is usually not affected because of its limited range of motion.
How do I know if I need spinal decompression therapy?
An examination by a qualified physician will get to the root of the cause concerning the back pain. Patients who undergo spinal decompression therapy have: bulging or herniated discs, sciatica, spinal stenosis, radiculopathy (pinched nerves), osteophytes (bone spurs) and degenerative joint disease. Pain can be caused by natural aging or trauma to the spine.
What are the surgical options for spinal decompression?
There are many alternatives for surgical spinal decompression and it varies from case to case. Some of the more common surgical procedures are:
- Discectomy. Removal of the portion of the disc resting on the nerve, to alleviate pressure and pain.
- Laminectomy. Removal of some or all of the lamina to alleviate pressure by increasing the size of the spinal canal.
- Laminotomy. Same as above, but the doctor only removes a portion of the lamina for less severe cases.
- Osteophyte removal. Removal of bone spurs to alleviate pressure.
- Corpectomy. Removal of part of the vertebra and the discs.
- Foraminotomy. Removal of bone and other tissue to expand the openings for the nerve roots to alleviate pain and pressure.
As with any invasive surgery there are risks of infection, blood clots, bleeding, paralysis and allergic reaction to anesthesia. After surgery, a patient remains in the hospital for four to five days and given pain medication. When released, patients are usually prescribed physical therapy for varying periods of time depending on the severity of the surgery. Spinal decompression surgery has an 80 to 90 percent success rate, with only a handful of patients having symptoms reoccur within the next year.
Are there any non-surgical options for spinal decompression therapy?
The DTS traction-based system is FDA-approved and used widely to treat back and neck pain due to herniated or bulging discs.
The DTS system uses a traction table with computerized medical technology to gently stretch the spine and decompress the discs. By gently stretching the discs, the vertebrae separate from each other creating a "vacuum effect" inside the discs retracting the herniated or bulging discs back inside the spine, alleviating pain and pressure.
This treatment is done for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, a few days a week, over a period of four to seven weeks. Specific orders from your doctor must be followed for this procedure to work. 86 percent of patients have reported immediate pain resolution. Traction-based DTS has a success rate of 71 to 90 percent with a pain recurrence rate of 4 percent after a year.
The efficacy of this non-invasive approach does depend on the particular condition, as well as how long a patient has had this condition and the patient's cooperation in treatment.
Mechanical disc decompression therapy is a passive alternative for those who wish to avoid surgery which has more recovery time and pain.
Which option is right for me?
Neither the surgical nor non-surgical options guarantee that pain will not return. The most important thing to remember is that patients must follow their treatment plans exactly to ensure the best results.
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