Spinal Decompression

Spinal decompression.

Mechanical Spinal Decompression is a therapeutic technique often used by chiropractors to create space between vertebrae, stretch muscles and take pressure off nerves and/or the spinal cord. Other terms for spinal decompression are Vertebral Axial Decompression, Spinal Traction or Axial Traction. This technique is non-invasive and generally painless.

Anatomy Affected by Spinal Decompression

The spinal column, or vertebral column, is a remarkably stable structure made up of vertebrae (bones) that protect the spinal cord. Between each of the vertebrae is a disc that is made of cartilage. There are nerves that begin at the spinal cord and travel through a small hole (called a foramen) in the side of each vertebra to the rest of the body. The nerves are responsible for detecting changes in temperature and position as well as signaling muscles and producing pain when the nerves are irritated, injured or damaged. Gravity and physical activity can put pressure on our spinal column throughout each day. That pressure “squeezes” out a little bit of fluid from the discs, and the body rehydrates the disc at night when we are at rest. Imagine a kitchen sponge: When it’s wet, the sponge is softer and can absorb some shock. The more we squeeze it, the more water comes out—but when we add water to a dry sponge, it quickly absorbs the water and puffs up. This is similar to the way our discs work.

Spinal decompression affects the discs and nerves in the spine the most. In a healthy spine, the edges of the vertebrae and discs are stacked on top of one another to form a smooth curve, and the nerves between the vertebrae have plenty of space. However, over time or sometimes because of an injury, degeneration or inflammation, the discs can become flatter. This puts pressure on the nerves and can cause pain, weak muscles and/or changes in our sense of touch. In these cases, the discs need a little more room to rehydrate and allow for optimal space for the nerves that exit the spinal cord. Spinal decompression works to create some extra space between each of the vertebrae using gentle traction, which in return helps promote the movement of water, oxygen and nutrient-rich fluids into the discs.

What Does Spinal Decompression Feel Like?

Spinal decompression feels like strong but gentle stretching of the neck or low back, depending on the area being treated. For example, if the problem is in your lower back, a harness will be placed around the abdomen and just above the hips, and you may have a bolster or small stool under your legs. The harness should be tight and secure, but not so tight that you can’t breathe comfortably. When the pulling begins, you may feel your entire body shift slightly for a few seconds, and then you will feel a gentle pull on the low back. We will closely monitor you to make sure there is no discomfort during therapy. A device known as a flexion-distraction table may also be used, which is a flexible table that gently flexes the body in repeated motions to open spaces between the vertebrae.

Conditions Helped by Spinal Decompression

Spinal decompression may be an appropriate therapy for a number of conditions. Besides back or neck pain, spinal decompression may be used to treat conditions affecting discs and nerves, such as sciatica, bulging or herniated discs, degenerative disc disease or posterior facet syndrome (a condition where the spinal joints in the back are worn and don’t move well anymore). We may also use spinal decompression for other conditions that begin in the neck or back and cause pain, numbness, tingling, weakness or loss of sensation in other parts of the body. A physical and neurologic examination in the office will help determine if spinal decompression is an appropriate therapy for you. Please let us know if you’d like to discuss spinal decompression therapy further.

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "I've been coming to see Dr. Bob since 1984 for my back pain. After each visit, the vast improvement lasts about one whole month. Even after all these years, Dr. Bob continues to provide outstanding care for me, my children, and my grandchildren. I've referred several people to HealthWise Chiropractic, so they too can see the results I have. My favorite part of my visits is the friendliness and professionalism of the staff and doctors and, of course, the results I get that improve my daily living."
    Danny S.
  • "About ten years ago I was at the gym, I bent over and couldn't get up, the pain was horrible. I contacted Healthwise and Dr. Mike gave me an emergency appointment that evening. He did a complete physical and x-ray before he started any treatment. After my first treatment I was able to stand up and walk with minimal pain. With a few visits I was back to normal. I continued treatments as needed for the next several years.
    I see Dr. Bob regularly to stay fit and pain-free. He tests my strength and weakness to determine the best treatment. Our open discussion led him to help my acid reflux. I now exercise and walk as is essential for a septuagenarian.
    I told Dr. Bob that I was starting to get knee pain that I thought was arthritis; I didn't think chiropractic care could help. He told me about new equipment to help. I look forward to improvement.
    I was a skeptic of chiropractic care, now I would recommend HealthWise to anyone with chronic/simple pain. It worked for me. It can work for you!"
    Sherry B.
  • "I was very miserable with constant pain in my leg while knowing it had something to do with my back. My friend surprised me with an appointment with Dr. Bob. After being treated by Dr. Bob I knew right away it was exactly what I needed. I learned a lot through my conversations with the doctor. I am really thankful to Dr. Bob and his staff."
    Ed L.
  • "I had a very limited understanding of chiropractic care until I tried it for the first time 12 years ago. I came in with severe pain in my neck, which prohibited me from moving my head. I was greeted by a kind staff, had an exam and x-rays done on my first appointment followed by an adjustment. I felt so much better after my first adjustment and by following the treatment plan my headaches and migraines improved. My overall health has improved because of chiropractic care. Dr. Bob helps make sure that I am taking the right supplements to optimize my health and fitness performance. They have helped me with allergies, knee and shoulder pain, and earaches. I had no idea when I began my chiropractic journey just how much help the doctors and staff at HealthWise would be at improving my quality of life."
    Britt H.
  • "I have been a patient at HealthWise Chiropractic for over 20 years. In the past and currently I am seeing Dr. Bob, however, I have seen all docs at Healthwise. My general issues are usually seasonally related to sinus and allergies. Recently I have been receiving treatment for my hip and lower back. Dr. Bob zeros in on trigger points and quickly relieves my pain. He is a wealth of knowledge and offers help and suggestion on my health issues. The staff is friendly and helpful. I leave feeling better and I believe helps to keep my body aligned and energized. I have also come in after falls, injuries and surgeries. I truly believe my adjustments at the time added to a quicker recovery."
    Liz B.
  • "I have been a patient of Dr. Bob for two and half months. . I see him for an adjustment every two weeks. I started seeing a chiropractor for the first time in January 2021 while working in Florida for my continued lower back pain and chronic bilateral hip bursitis. Because my pain was mostly relieved with continued adjustments, I decided to continue with treatment when returning to Wisconsin. I have been very happy with my continued pain relief/adjustments at HealthWise. I highly recommend anyone with chronic back and neck pain to try chiropractic adjustments here at HealthWise. It will make your life better."
    Marianne V.
  • "Really enjoyed the different things that they can do for you and your pain management. Would highly recommend."
    Rhiannon P.
  • "I enjoy coming, getting readjusted and any additional therapies. It has made my life healthier and less stressful. If I have questions, they are answered at that visit. The staff is very professional, personable and friendly. I always look forward to my next visit with them. I am glad to be part of Healthwise Chiropractic family:)"
    Marcella L.
  • "DR MIKE IS A GREAT CHIROPRACTOR. HE TAKES THE TIME TO GIVE YOU A COMPLETE ADJUSTMENT IS TIME. HE IS ALSO A GOOD CONVERSATIONALIST. THANKS"
    RICHARD R.
  • "Dr. Mike is fantastic! He is very personable….will take time to really to your needs… I enjoy my visits…the maintenance has helped tremendously…..and he is there when the emergency pops up! Excellent Chiropractor!"
    Ann W.


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