Health Watch: Spinal Decompression

November 2, 2008 11:00:00 PM PST
Doctors say as many as 8 out of 10 people have some kind of backache.Kay George of Dinuba makes a regular trip to her Fresno chiropractor for a treatment that she said has kept her out of the operating room. She lays down for several minutes while a spinal decompression machine does the work. "I feel just a gentle pull, not at all painful not at all uncomfortable," said Kay George.

Kay said her back problems started suddenly but were actually brought on by years of arthritis. "I woke up one morning experiencing excruciating pain radiating from my lower back through my legs."

After hearing about spinal decompression from her family members, Kay tried it out, and has never looked back.

A precise computer attached to the treatment bed is set to her exact therapy plan and gently pulls her spine. The upper black pad of the table as it moves slightly, delivering a motion that doctors say, helps the body help itself.

Dr. Eric Johnson at Champlain Chiropractic in northeast Fresno explains how it works. "The decompression will actually relax a little bit, pull, relax, pull, relax; in an attempt to create a suction effect in the disc space to pull fluids into the disc to help heal it."

Dr. Johnson said decompression can help relieve painful back problems more effectively than traditional traction because it alleviates the pressure of herniated disc material on the spinal nerve. He said the therapy has saved many patients from the time, expense and risk of back surgery. "We try to strengthen their spine as best as we can so they can live the life they planned on living."

Patients like Kay are also given a state-of-the-art diagnosis along with decompression that allows doctors to see exactly where the trouble spots are.

This computer and this treatment wand can replace traditional chiropractic care of "popping and cracking" by simply placing this wand against the spine and getting a few pulses.

The technologies work together to deliver treatment in just minutes. Dr. Johnson said the decompression therapy is FDA approved and is covered by most health insurance plans.

If a patient is not covered, it can cost between $2,000 to $3,000 dollars. Patients with coverage could pay as little as a $10-dollar co-pay per treatment.

Kay George said decompression has taken away the back pain that used to stretch her to the limit. "I can live like this now and go along with my daily life where before I really could not have."

Critics of spinal decompression therapy say there is limited scientific evidence to show its effectiveness but chiropractors say it's an innovation to traction therapy that has been used for years.



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