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Spinal decompression 101

by John Quackenbush, DC, CEO

Spinal Decompression Therapy is a non-surgical traction/decompression based treatment that effectively treat back, neck, arm, and leg pain as caused by spinal disc issues. We offer treatment for Neck (Cervical) Decompression and Lumbar (Lower Back) Decompression at our Phoenix Scottsdale pain treatment which works extremely well for treating herniated or bulging discs in the neck and lower back along with degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, facet arthritis, failed back surgery syndrome, sciatica, and radiculopathy.

Spinal decompression therapy was cleared and approved as a viable spinal disc treatment in 1996. It is extremely safe, affordable, and revolutionary.

What Happens during my Spinal Decompression Treatment Sessions?


Prolapse of intervertebral disc close-up The treatment is traction-based and referred to as spinal decompression. Spinal decompression utilizes computer controlled gradual application intermittent pull- release of traction forces designed to use the inherent natural anatomy in the the para-spinal muscles so they do not guard or spasm. Scientifically it causes the “Golgi Apparatus” in your muscles to just relax, sort of like a dimmer switch, and eventually the muscles are encouraged to stop being in spasm. Spinal Decompression creates a negative pressure on the spine, which then allows increased blood flow bringing along substantial oxygen and nutrients. This negative pressure allows the protruded, bulging, herniated disc to be coaxed back within the normal confines of the disc called the annular tissues of the disc anatomy. The combination of pull-relax to patient tolerance combines to form a doubled tiered protocol that encourages and causes decreased muscle spasm, decreased pressure within the disc, increased blood flow and increased oxygen to the area all adding up to healing of the discs that utilizes natural anatomy and physiology.

What types of Disc Issues Respond to Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression?

  • Herniated Discs Neck & Back
  • Bulging Discs
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Failed Surgery
  • Sciatica
  • Radiculopathy
  • Spinal Arthritis
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Facet Syndrome

Is Spinal Decompression Therapy Painful? How Many Sessions are needed?

Spinal Decompression treatment is completely painless both for cervical decompression and lumbar decompression. With our Phoenix Spinal Decompression system, patients are able to relax during treatments and many patients actually fall asleep during the sessions. Based on research and our Phoenix Chiropractors and pain management doctors clinical experience, the best results are achieved with 20 or less sessions over a six-week period. At our Phoenix Scottsdale pain treatment we further reduce inflammation and assist the healing process with passive therapies such as (ice/heat/muscle stimulation), chiropractic adjustments (when indicated) and/or active rehabilitation in order to strengthen the spinal and abdominal core musculature.

Will I receive Physical Therapy or Rehab Exercises?

Typically yes, but we utilize physical rehabilitation exercises rather than Physical Therapy. Our Phoenix chiropractic doctor, John Quackenbush, DC, has been successfully treating patients in pain for over 34 years. He is certified in cervical decompression and lumbar decompression treatment and oversees all progressive steps for patients receiving spinal decompression to maximize a successful outcome. These physical Rehabilatation exercises are guided towards core strengthening

Are there Clinical Trials that Document the Effectiveness of Spinal Decompression Therapy?

Doctors confer while examining film scans of patient’s spine. In a study published in the Journal of Neuroimaging in 1998, Eyerman found in 20 patients that underwent spinal decompression therapy resulted in disc herniation reduction and disc rehydration in over half of the patients. This study was for lumbar (Low Back) decompression and did not involve cervical (Neck) decompression.

A study in the American Journal of Pain Management by Shealy et al in 1997 showed that 86% of ruptured intervertebral disc patients achieved good to excellent results with decompression. Sciatica and back pain were relieved substantially and of the facet arthrosis patients, 75% obtained good to excellent results with spinal decompression.

The most well-known studies on decompression therapy; Orthopedic Technology Review; 2003 Gionis et al. Of 219 patients, 86% who completed treatment reported immediate resolution of their symptoms, while 84% remained pain free 90 days post-treatment. Physical examination findings showed improvement in 92% of the patients whereas 89% of the patients 90 days after treatment.

When Is Spinal Decompression Therapy Not Indicated?

Decompression Treatment is not recommended for pregnant women, severe osteoporosis, or post spinal surgery with instrumentation. Spinal fusion surgery without instrumentation are accepted as well as spinal surgery without a fusion.

How Much Does it Cost and does Insurance cover it?

It’s not debatable whether insurance covers spinal decompression. The answer is no, it is not covered. Some practices advertise that it does but it can be potentially deceiving… Most Phoenix and Scottsdale Spinal Decompression Doctors offering spinal decompression therefore offer it as a cash based fee for service treatment. This includes both cervical decompression and lumbar decompression.

The Bottom Line

Spinal decompression therapy has helped many people avoid spinal surgery. According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, surgery is no more effective than non-invasive treatments, including chiropractic care, for patients with lumbar disc herniation causing sciatica. Spine decompression (neck decompression and low back decompression) is extremely safe, FDA cleared, affordable, and very effective for many conditions such as back, neck, arm, and leg pain.

At Phoenix Pain Treatment serving Phoenix, Scottsdale AZ and surrounding areas 50% of our patients receive cervical decompression (neck decompression) and 50% lumbar decompression (low back decompression). The results have been impressive for both. If you have a need for spinal decompression we can make it affordable for you and your loved ones.

For a No-Cost No-Obligation consultation with one of our Pain Treatment Doctors

For a No-Cost No-Obligation consultation with one of our Pain Treatment Doctors

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