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Herniated Disc Treatment - A New Approach

Jan 23, 2008
Herniated disc sufferers have traditionally had the treatment options of medication, physical therapy, spinal injections, and/or surgery, and because of the limited effectiveness of these approaches, many simply have had to learn to live with the pain. But a new option is now available and while not appropriate or effective for every person with a herniated disc, it does represent a huge leap in effectiveness and safety in treating herniated discs.

A new kind of intermittent spinal traction known as spinal decompression is rapidly becoming the treatment of choice for herniated disc sufferers. The old kind of traction was used for many years in herniated disc cases, but it was not particularly effective, and it even made symptoms worse in some patients. Regular traction often sets off muscle spasm, which may increase pain and may even compress a herniated disc further, increasing the bulging.

Spinal decompression systems are still traction machines, but they pull very slowly and gently so as not to trigger muscle spasm. Some of the most advanced spinal decompression systems take things even further in that they use computers to monitor the body for signs of muscle resistance that signals the onset of spasm and can immediately cause the motor to reduce its pull at the first sign of any resistance. The best of the spinal decompression systems monitor the body and change the treatment intensity as needed every 1/17th of a second. This speed of change is important to the avoidance of triggering muscle spasm.

Because the muscles are kept relaxed during treatment, spinal decompression treatment drastically lowers the pressure inside the herniated disc and creates a suction within the disc that pulls back in the bulging disc material. This suction effect also draws in fluid and nutrients that aid in disc healing and stabilization over time.

The frequency and duration of spinal decompression treatment will vary depending on the age and condition of the patient, the severity of the herniated disc, and the number of herniated discs. Spinal decompression can be used in both the lumbar and cervical spine very effectively.

The success rate of spinal decompression with appropriate patient selection runs about 80 - 90%, with the majority experiencing good results long-term. Due to the high effectiveness and extremely low risk of side-effects, spinal decompression is usually the best treatment option for those with a herniated disc.

It is unfortunate that overly aggressive advertising and hype and sometimes poor patient selection by some health care providers has created unrealistic patient expectations and led to legal action by regulatory agencies that has adversely effected the reputation of spinal decompression. Although spinal decompression is a great advancement in the treatment of herniated discs, it cannot be considered a cure-all, it does not work in every case, and it cannot be used in every situation.

Spinal decompression, when used appropriately, does produce enough improvement and disc healing in the vast majority of cases to allow patients to resume normal lives and return to most activities (even playing golf or tennis and working in the yard), but it does not restore a herniated disc to 100% normal. No treatment can. Even the still-experimental disc replacement surgery does not restore the spine to a normal condition and future back problems following disc replacement are to be expected. Overwork, poor posture, or failure to use good bending and lifting techniques can set the stage for a recurrence of disc problems no matter how good the results of treatment are initially.

By carefully selecting patients for spinal decompression and effectively communicating realistic expectations to patients, spinal decompression providers can supply an unusually safe and effective treatment option for those with a herniated disc.
About the Author
Dr. George Best has been treating people suffering with herniated discs since 1992. To get additional information on herniated discs, sciatica, or degenerative disc disease, visit Herniated Disc.
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