Yesterday was an interesting day, I stopped by a Doctor of Osteopathy to discuss the benefits of Non Surgical Spinal Decompression.
The Doctor thought Spinal Decompression was traction. There is a difference I have explained the difference below.
What is the difference between decompression and traction?
Many clinicians specializing in lumbar spine pathology have criticized traditional traction. Traction fails in many cases because it causes muscular stretch receptors to fire, which then cause para-spinal muscles to contract. This muscular response actually causes an increase in intradiscal pressure. On the other hand, genuine decompression is achieved by gradual and calculated increases of distraction forces to spinal structures, utilizing various degrees of distraction forces.
A highly specialized computer must modulate the application of distraction forces in order to achieve the ideal effect. The system uses applies a gentle, curved angle pull which yields far greater treatment results that a less comfortable, sharp angle pull. Distraction must be offset by cycles of partial relaxation.
The system continuously monitors spinal resistance and adjusts distraction forces accordingly. A specific lumbar segment can be targeted for treatment by changing the angle of distraction. This patented technique of decompression may prevent muscle spasm and patient guarding. Constant activity monitoring takes place at a rate of 10,000 times per second, making adjustments not perceived by the eye as many as 20 times per second via its fractional metering and monitoring system.
Genuine decompression also involves the use of a special pelvic harness that supports the lumbar spine during therapy. Negative pressure within the disc is maintained throughout the treatment session. With genuine decompression, the pressure within the disc space can actually be lowered to about -150 mmHg. As a result, the damaged disc will be rehydrated with nutrients and oxygen.
Isn’t decompression just a fancy name for a traction machine?
No. There is a big different between traction, distraction and decompression. Traction has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The problem with traction as it is known today is that it is not always beneficial. In 1998, the Scientific American rated traction to be of little or no value in the examination of efficacious therapies for lower back pain. This finding is consistent with many studies that report traction can often times signal a nociceptive splinting response and put a patient’s back muscles in spasm, resisting any attempts to effect a change on the disc proper.
Distraction, a term used to describe a flexion distraction technique, attempts to reposition the spine from the offending lesion. This technique has been shown to be very effective, even though potentially damaging to the person performing the technique and largely dependent on the skill of the technician. Like traction, distraction procedures are limited in the ability to reduce the intradiscal pressure, or produce a negative pressure within the disc imbibing fluid, nutrients and creating an environment for repair.
Decompression therefore is an event - a combination of restraint, angle position and equipment engineering. One can experience traction without decompression, but not decompression without traction. Traction is a machine - Decompression is an event.