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Century Park Pain and Health Clinic

2393 111 Street NW
Edmonton, AB, T6J 5E5
Phone: (780) 628-7219 • Fax: (780) 628-7339
[email protected]

What Is Spinal Decompression?

You may be asking yourself what exactly is spinal decompression? Spinal decompression is a state of the art treatment developed by a medical doctor right here in Canada. It uses computer aided technology to help you get better from such problems as sciatica, degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, facet syndrome and many other conditions that affect the spine which cause back or neck pain.

How does this technology work? It works by treating the source of the problem, the bones and discs of the spine. Whether it be the long term effects of gravity constantly pushing down on your spine over time and causing your discs to have flattened or an injury that has damaged/torn one of your discs and allowed pressure on one of your nerves, the disc is often the problem for people who haven't been able to find relief from other types of treatment. The reason for this is simple, chiropractic, massage, phyiso etc. treats the bones and muscles around the disc but not the disc itself.

This is where spinal decompression is different. It is designed to treat the disc not just the tissues around the disc. Imagine a jelly filled donut. If you were to squish the donut the jelly on the inside would squish out. The spinal disc is very similar. It is made up of a jelly material on the inside that is kept in by a ring of tissue that we can compare to the donut. If the disc is squished this material can push out and start pinching a nerve that can cause excruciating pain. Spinal decompression allows us to stretch the disc and allows us to suck the jelly back into the center of the disc so it no longer pushes on a nerve. It also helps pull water back into the disc which is important as the disc is made up of over 50% water. As dehydrated discs are sick discs we want to rehydrate the discs to make them healthier. It also pulls in nutrients to give the disc the building blocks to heal and get better. Unlike other areas of the body, there is no real blood supply going to the discs which is part of the reason that a disc can take so long to heal. By creating the negative pressure that is cause by spinal decompression, it allows us to not only pull the jelly back in where it belongs but speed up the bodies natural healing process.

How is Spinal Decompression different from standard traction or an inversion table?

Traction is a simple static force that is put on the patient's body with the intent of unloading the body's joints, muscles and other structures. For example, hanging upside-down is a common method to put the spine into traction. Rather than one's body weight putting stress on the spine, which is what happens when standing erect, the body weight is working to unload the spine.

Various forms of traction have been around for over 1000 years, however, pain relief has been inconsistent and short-lived with past techniques. In fact, several clinical studies have shown traction to be an ineffective form of back and neck pain relief. The reason is unexpected, but pretty simple. Our bodies react to the static unloading (stretching) of the spine by contracting, or squeezing, the muscles surrounding the spine. Rather than achieving the desired effect of unloading the spine, the pressure on the spine is actually increased, thus increasing intradiscal pressure (pressure on the discs). This does NOT allow the discs to rehydrate and heal, which is what ultimately yields pain relief.

Triton DTS Screen Computer Display from Triton DTS Spinal Decompression Bed

Spinal Decompression, on the other hand, is a modified, updated form of traction. Computer technology is used to control variations in the unloading of the spine, effectively avoiding the body's muscle contraction response. Notice in the figure that the traction tension is varied over time according to the graph. The doctor can control how many progressive tension steps are experienced by the patient before reaching the maximum tension. The doctor also has complete control over how long the tensions are held steady and how often they are repeated.

Because Spinal Decompression avoids the muscle contraction response, the intradiscal pressure is actually lowered to the point of being a vacuum, creating a negative pressure. This vacuum is what allows herniated material to be drawn back into place and permits rehydration of the disc. Once the herniated material is not in contact with the nerves and the disc is in good health, pain is relieved.

Spinal decompression is different from traction because it works.