If you’re experiencing pain, numbness, and weakness in your back or limbs caused by spinal stenosis, spinal decompression therapy may be a good treatment option if your pain has not responded to more conservative approaches. Read on to learn more about what this procedure does and how it works.
What Conditions Can Decompression Therapy Treat?
Spinal decompression therapy is most commonly used to treat pain caused by stenosis. Stenosis is another word for the narrowing of the spinal canal. This can be caused by many conditions, including slipped, bulging, or herniated discs. It can also be caused by a growth like an osteophyte (bone spur) taking up space and putting pressure on the spinal cord. This can cause pain at the site of the compression, as well as pain that radiates out through the extremities. Areas served by the compressed nerve can become numb, tingly, or weak.
How Does Decompression Therapy Work?
In a minimally invasive decompression procedure, the targeted areas that are causing the compression (e.g., part of a bulging disc, bone, or bone fragments) are carefully removed. With endoscopically assisted spinal decompression, an endoscope guides a needle to the site of the pain. Fluoroscopy, which is like a live x-ray that takes both moving and still pictures, allows the surgeon to see exactly where to go. Different techniques are used to remove the disc or bone causing the compression. Radiofrequency electrodes, coblation, and the YAG: Holmium laser can all be used, depending on the patient’s needs.
In cases where a large amount of tissue needs to be removed or more space needs to be created for the spinal canal, an option that allows for decompression without spinal fusion is the Coflex® Interlaminar Implant. This is a small, flexible titanium mechanism that is placed in the lamina (the back portion of the spine) following spinal decompression therapy. It stabilizes the spine and takes the pressure off of the nerves. Unlike traditional spinal fusion, however, Coflex is flexible, allowing patients a greater range of motion.
What are the Benefits of Decompression Therapy?
With minimally invasive decompression therapy, damage to the muscle and tissue adjacent to the removed tissue is minimized. This helps to reduce the amount of time spent in recovery, as there is less extensive damage to the tissues of the back. The endoscopic technique uses a small incision, which causes less bleeding and reduces the risk of infection. Some patients find that decompression therapy alleviates their neck, arm, back or leg pain almost right away, but for others it can take several months to resolve. Your pain may also alter in intensity or character, which is a normal reaction to decompression therapy. To have the best chance of getting good results from spinal decompression therapy, it is important that you follow your surgeon’s instructions carefully and don’t push yourself too hard — a shorter recovery time doesn’t mean no recovery time!
Curious if you might be a candidate for spinal decompression therapy? Contact the Spine Institute Northwest at 888-712-0318.