By Medicine Hat News on March 4, 2019.
Can stretching spinal vertebrae ease lower back and neck pain? Can it circumvent surgery? It’s a question I’ve researched for several years as I suffer from spinal pain. The first spinal clinic I sought looked at my neck MRI’s and concluded that stretching the spine was too dangerous at my age. But recently another doctor agreed to treatment. So, was this therapy more successful than a 5 o’clock rum, or a glass of Chardonnay?
After the cold and flu, spinal pain is the No. 1 cause of work absence. Studies show that up to 85 per cent of the North American population will suffer from back or neck pain at some time during their lives. Often it’s due to a ruptured spinal disc that sends pain down the leg and may cause numbness. Spinal surgery is also the second leading surgical procedure and costs our health care system billions of dollars. Unfortunately, it’s not always successful.
The spinal disc is like a jelly donut placed between vertebrae that suddenly ruptures, causing intense pain. This rupture brings vertebrae closer together causing pinched nerves. It often results from heavy lifting, poor dietary habits, lack of exercise, drying of the disc, or arthritic changes associated with aging.
Spinal decompression therapy uses computerized equipment in an attempt to reverse this process. During each treatment increasing negative vacuum pressure (zero gravity) is applied to the distressed disc. But it’s vital not to stretch the spine too fast or too far, which might cause a disastrous paralyzing injury.
But there is more to decompression therapy than stretching. Experts believe that negative pressure aids in pulling nutrients, oxygen and moisture back into damaged discs.
Many years ago NASA, the U.S. space agency, was the first to investigate the positive effects of zero gravity on the spine. It discovered that astronauts gained as much as two inches in height during space missions. Zero gravity was responsible for the increased space between vertebrae and added height.
This has resulted in computerized equipment called the DRX 9000 which mimics the conditions found during space missions.
So what happens during DRX treatment? Initially heat is applied to the spinal area that’s to be treated. This aids in relaxing tense muscles. Patients are then positioned comfortably on the equipment and a simple harness holds the body in the correct position.
Each session of about 30 minutes takes them through a series of super-smooth pulls, holds and releases. During this time up to half of the body weight, plus as much as 25 pounds of tension can be exerted directly on injured discs.
Is there any pain stretching the spine? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being severe pain, the discomfort was nearly zero in my case. In fact, it was even hard to stay awake, particularly if the therapist dims the lights and plays music.
Does decompression work? In one study 86 per cent of patients reported either complete or near complete resolution of their symptoms. Three months later, researchers found that only three per cent of patients had a recurrence of pain.
I was not so lucky and had zero relief of pain after several treatments as it’s more difficult to stretch aging spines. But it was an interesting experience with no regrets as it satisfied my curiosity, and I suffered no side-effects.
So what should others do who suffer neck and back pain? First, when doing nothing other than resting, applying heat to the area, along with painkillers, the majority of ruptured discs heal in about six weeks. Nature is often the best doctor.
But if pain does not subside, frequently recurs, and is associated with numbness this requires other therapy.
I believe the DRX 9000 computer is the next best option. One problem, it’s expensive and may not be covered by insurance. It also doesn’t involve prescription drugs, or major surgery. But since any procedure carries a risk, always discuss the pros and cons of decompression treatment with your doctor.
Sometimes in life you win, sometimes lose. So, after trying many types of treatments, including marijuana, it’s back to a 5 o’clock rum or a glass of Chardonnay for me. Worse fates can happen to you!
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