by: Eben Davis, D.C.
I have been providing neck pain treatment in San Francisco for over 20 years now. For the first 12 years, our treatment protocols for most cervical conditions included chiropractic adjustments, traction, massage and custom exercises.
About 8 years ago, we began to incorporate nonsurgical cervical decompression into the mix, which gave us the ability to treat cervical disc bulges and herniations more effectively.
Prior to spinal decompression, we would refer out the cases that would not respond to our protocols for surgical consultations. However, that was then and this is now.
What we found is about 80% or more of the patients that would undergo cervical decompression would achieve a favorable outcome. That is huge. This means that many of the patients who would otherwise have a risky neck surgery would now have a natural solution that was safe and effective.
Cervical decompression machines are designed and built to treat disc herniations in the neck. That’s what they do. They have a built-in biofeedback mechanism that is able to sense the patient’s muscle guarding response and make adjustments to the force it uses to administer the treatment.
This is totally different than conventional traction which just pulls. This can actually cause more harm than good, because the body will naturally try to protect the injured disc by tightening the neck muscles. To pull on them, without taking this into consideration, can cause serious damage. This is why conventional traction is, for the most part, contraindicated for herniated discs.
Spinal decompression therapy isolates a specific spinal disc by adjusting the angle of pull. The decompression machine is able to enlarge the disc space, elongate the spine, strengthen the spinal muscles, re-hydrate the disc, re-position the disc off the nerves and spinal cord, and help the disc to do what it would do if it could.
I call spinal decompression a respirator for the spine. Just like a respirator helps the lungs to do what they would do if they could, so does decompression therapy.
Decompression is a process which usually takes about 20 visits or so over a 6-8 week period. The visits are an hour long. We do 30 minutes of cervical decompression. Then we do 10 minutes of muscle stimulation to teach the muscles to work with the spine in its new position. Then we do 10 minutes of ice to reduce inflammation, pain and muscle spasms.
We also incorporate custom exercises to further strengthen the spinal muscles and therapies such as deep tissue laser, Graston Technique or Active Release Techniques (ART) as needed.
Sometimes chiropractic adjustments are indicated, even if the failed to produce results pre-decompression.
Here’s something to think about: If you are considering fusion surgery, you should know that you will be forever disqualified from cervical decompression if you do it. So why not try decompression first?
Sure, I have a biased opinion, because I offer this service at my San Francisco clinic. But I have also successfully treated many family members and close friends with my spinal decompression machines. I have also treated myself. I consider cervical spinal decompression the gold standard for the nonsurgical treatment of herniated discs in the neck. I highly recommend you consider it before surgery. Remember, if you have surgery first, you may never know if it would have helped.