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FAQ’s on Lumbar Decompression Therapy

How Does Lumbar Decompression Treatment Work?
Nonsurgical lumbar decompression is a type of motorized traction.  It works by gently stretching the spine that changes the force and position of the spine. This will take pressure off the spinal discs.  Over time, a negative pressure is created inside the disc spaces, which then permits increased fluid into the disc which carries along oxygen and nutrients for healing. This permits the herniated or bulging disc to be pulled back into the normal disc area, which facilitates healing to occur.

What Medical Problems Benefit from Lumbar Decompression?
Degenerative Disc Disease · Bulging Discs · Herniated Discs · Spinal Stenosis · Sciatica · Spinal Arthritis ·Failed Surgery · Nerve Damage (Radiculopathy)

Is Lumbar Decompression Therapy Painful? How Many Therapy Sessions are Necessary?
For most individuals, treatment does not cause pain.  Although patients may experience changes in as few as 3-8 visits, based on existing studies and our experience, the most effective outcome occurs with 20 lumbar decompression treatments over about six weeks. To reduce inflammation and enhance healing, additional treatment includes other therapies (ice/heat/muscle stimulation), physical therapy, and chiropractic adjustments to strengthen the spinal muscles.

Are there Studies that Show Lumbar Decompression Therapy to be Effective?     A 1997 research study by Shealy et al(1) showed that 86% of ruptured disk participants obtained good to excellent results with lumbar decompression therapy. Sciatica and back pain were alleviated substantially and of the patients with lumbar joint arthritis, 75% obtained good to excellent results.

One of the most well-known research papers on lumbar decompression therapy was in 2003 by Gionis et al(2). With over 200 patients, 86% who finished therapy described immediate symptom relief, while 84% stayed pain free 90 days after decompression therapy. Physical examination findings showed 92% improvement and stayed improved in 89% three months later.

Are there Medical Problems where Decompression Therapy is Not Recommended?
Lumbar Decompression Therapy is inadvisable for pregnant women, those who have severe osteoporosis, those with certain cancer diagnoses and treatments or after a spinal surgery when hardware is in place like screws and rods. Spinal fusion surgery with no hardware is okay along with spinal surgery with no fusion.

Do Individuals Also Obtain Physical Therapy?
Typically YES. To reduce inflammation and assist the healing process, Physical Therapy under the McKenzie Method is often combined to strengthen and improve the mechanics of the lower back muscles in conjunction with decompression treatments. Also treatments like ice and heat, electric muscle stimulation, and chiropractic adjustments are added to the treatment plan.

What is the Cost of Decompression and does Insurance cover it?
Consider the cost for 20 treatments at $125 per treatment totaling $2,500, which is incredibly reasonable considering the cost and recovery associated with back surgery. The result is a healed lower back without permanent surgical damage.  As a rule, health insurance carriers do not pay for lumbar decompression therapy. Make sure to ask us how it is handled with your particular insurance plan.

The Bottom Line on Lumbar Decompression Therapy
Lumbar Decompression Therapy has helped thousands avoid back surgery. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, surgery is no more effective than non-surgical treatments, including chiropractic adjustments, pain management injections, lumbar decompression therapy, and physical therapy for those with disc herniation and sciatica. Lumbar Decompression Therapy is very safe, affordable, and very effective.

  1. C. Norman Shealy, MD, PhD, and Vera Borgmeyer, RN, MA. Decompression, Reduction, and Stabilization of the Lumbar Spine: A Cost-Effective Treatment for Lumbosacral Pain. American Journal of Pain Management Vol. 7 No. 2 April 1997 Emerging Technologies.
  2. Gionis, Thomas MD; Groteke, Eric DC. Surgical Alternatives: Spinal Decompression. Orthopedic Technology Review. 2003; 6 (5) Orthopedic Technology Review.