Spinal Decompression

Spinal Decompression Pros and Cons

The Pros

The cyclic effect that occurs during the session allows the muscles in the back to gradually relax over the course of each thirty minute treatment, thereby preventing the muscle cramping and contraction that is a common complaint with other traction devices. Anecdotally, although some patients receive little or no benefit from the DRX9000™, few physicians who use it have cited cases where it made a patient’s symptoms worse. Other similar models such as the VAX-D unit and the Intervertebral Differential Dynamics (IDD) ® have also been studied, although the conditions and statistical analysis involved in these ‘studies’ of all three units are far from academically sound. All of these studies have been conducted in order to study the effect of the units on the lower back, rather than the cervical spine, making analysis of the efficacy of this treatment for neck pain highly problematic.

Non-surgical spinal decompression may not provide dramatic results for the majority of people but it does have significantly less risk associated with it than both spinal surgery, and conventional pharmaceutical strategies for dealing with neck pain, such as NSAIDs, oral steroids, or epidural steroid injections. The non-surgical decompression approach to neck pain is non-invasive, gentle for the most part, and involves no permanent structural alterations to the body or addictive pharmaceutical intervention with its concomitant side effects. There may, however, be more effective techniques for relieving neck pain that cost considerably less and are therefore available to more people. Exhausting these options, such as acupuncture, acupressure, massage, yoga, nutritional supplementation, and neck strengthening exercises first may be the preferred strategy when dealing with chronic neck and back pain from conditions such as spinal stenosis.

Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression for Neck Pain Relief - Disadvantages

The treatment is not covered by either the provincial care plan (though it may be covered by extensions of the PCP) or workers’ compensation benefit, which can make it prohibitively expensive for the majority of people. Some neck pain sufferers may not be good candidates for this type of non-surgical decompression, particularly if there are issues such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, spinal tumors, fractures, or metal implants/screws/plates in the spine. Those who are pregnant, have Down’s Syndrome, have an abdominal aortic aneurysm, or are paraplegic or quadriplegic are also cautioned against using this therapy.

Spinal Decompression Treatment

Advances in medical science have also provided another form of decompression: Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression (PLDD). This minimally invasive procedure, first conducted in 1986, is under investigation in an ongoing clinical trial by Brouwer, et al, in the Netherlands to determine its efficacy in comparison to non-surgical and traditional surgical lumbar decompression. There is little discussion by Brouwer of the use of this treatment for cervical compression and neck pain, but perhaps this will be forthcoming after the publication of the trial’s results. A separate publication by Choy, et al (2009), has documented the use of PLDD in almost all regions of the spine, however, except for T1-T4 due to lack of accessibility for the needle. Choy, et al, observed success rates ranging from 70-89% for this treatment with a 0.3-1.0% complication incidence, making it a viable alternative to open surgery, and non-surgical spinal decompression for many patients with neck pain.

Last Updated: 11/20/2010