Spinal Decompression for Back Pain Relief - Patients' Advice: Part II

Spinal Decompression for Back Pain Relief - Patients' Advice: Part II

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Patients share tips on experiences with spinal decompression

Read our peer-reviewed article about spinal decompression:

All About Spinal Decompression Therapy
In this section, patients share tips and advice about using non-surgical spinal decompression to treat their back problems.

Spinal Decompression Therapy is FDA cleared and has several health benefits. Every year it gives hundreds of patients an option besides surgery. However, spinal decompression therapy and the physicians performing this therapy are not all created equal. You need to find a Clinic that performs a protocol that is specifically tailored for your problem. The clinic must do a full spectrum of therapies with the spinal decompression therapy in order for your results to be better. We recommend that you go into the facility for a free consultation. Whether it is a chiropractor or a Medical Doctor it doesn't matter. We have found that the Chiropractors spend more time and are more hands-on with their patients as compared to the Medical Doctors; this allows them to custom tailor your therapy depending on how well you progress. A good Spinal Decompression Therapy Protocol should include Bracing, Modalities such as; Ice, Heat, EMS (electrodes), Massage, SOT Blocking, Core Strengthening and Sacral Stabilization Bracing. Only 10% of the Insurance Companies pay for Spinal Decompression (using CPT Code S9090). Normal Costs for each session should be around $125 - $150 for everything.

From: Decompression Doctor

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Spinal decompression pointers for new patients
Pain intensity relief from spinal decompression

I have herniation at L5-S1 with 2 nerves compressed, herniation at L4-5 with 1 nerve compressed and spondylolisthesis, and other similarities at other areas but without herniation. I have had 14 treatments on the DRX9000. My pain level went from a 10 to about a 7 but I went from having pain 80% of the time to 100% of the time. I am seriously thinking about stopping the treatment and discussing surgery. Hopefully this helps someone researching their decision.

From: Shane – Louisiana, USA

Spinal decompression kept me out of surgery

I had two herniated discs at the lowest two levels. I tried PT...which made me worse; epidurals, which had no effect; and muscle relaxers. Nothing helped. My Ortho suggested I see a Chiropractor who specialized in spinal decompression therapy. Within two weeks I was 90% better. I don’t know whom I love more, my Chiropractor or my Orthopedic doctor who recommended the spinal decompression. This was a lifesaver for me. It lasted 5 weeks and cost 4500. Would have paid double, as it kept me from surgery. Highly recommended.

From: Jim – Georgia, USA

Watch out for a hard sell on decompression

Spinal decompression is a tool that may be used in Chiropractic Care. Just like any other tools, it is only as good as the person using it. When you go in for a consultation, by the time you leave if you still do not understand what your health problem is and what options you have (including decompression) then visit another chiropractor until you find one that make you a part of the healing process. The more you know the better you are able to make the right choices for your health. Does spinal decompression work? Yes it does. Will it work by itself? No, it will not. You need other therapy to aid and speed the healing, and keep the progress you have achieved. If you are already in pain, you have nothing to lose by trying decompression. You can always choose surgery later. If you choose surgery first, you have just knocked yourself out of trying safer options later. I am not a doctor. I do marketing for a couple of doctors who use spinal decompression. I truly believe the difference between successful decompression and not successful is the other work that must be done before and after the decompression. If, after your visit to a chiropractor, you feel like you just had a sales job done on you, keep looking. If you leave feeling that you now have a better understanding of your problem, and what you need to do fix it, then go forward. God bless and best of luck.

From: Chuck – Kentucky, USA

Chiropractor recommends thorough research before treatment

I own and operate a decompression/chiropractic clinic with two tables - one for the lower back and one for the neck. Am I biased? Yes and no. I have turned away numerous patients for decompression due to contraindicating factors. Did you have any hardware put into your spine or was it a simple laminectomy? I guess what I am getting at is without knowing your complete history it's hard to say what the next course of treatment would be. I can say that as a Chiropractor, if you did not get better in my office after the second visit we would have tried something else. Do your research and look for a good decompression clinic in your area that performs good protocols, which means they also do Core Strengthening, Massage, Passive Therapies and Stretches. It is very important that you choose a doctor who performs all of these therapies with the spinal decompression therapy.

Good luck in your research and I hope that all goes well for your progress.

From: Dr. Feelgood

Success with decompression for low back pain

I have a disk protruding in my lower back. I lived with leg and lower back pain for 8 months before seeking care. Initially they tried ultrasound and electric therapies without improvement or relief. After ordering an MRI and actually seeing the disk it was determined I was a candidate for decompression. I went 3-4 times a week for about a month. From the first treatment I saw vast improvement. I am 31 years of age and do light factory work.

I think the key to getting good care is to be open and honest with your doctor. I told him the current treatment was not acceptable and he suggested an MRI and then decompression. My doctor also told me that if I had had fusion that I would not have been a candidate. Could this be the problem with an earlier post?

Although my back will probably never be as good as new, my back pain is gone on all but the most straining of days and doesn't hurt the next day anymore. Because of this I would not hesitate to have spinal decompression again.

From: Mark - Ohio, USA

Try physical therapy instead of decompression

Neither spinal decompression nor chiropractor treatments were good.
The best treatment for back pain is the Mackenzie Method
exercises and physical therapy with a physiotherapist. Chiropractor basically messed up my back. I don't recommend Chiropractor treatment or spinal decompression - they are useless.

From: Hagere – Ontario, Canada

Decompression can get costly

I tried the DRX 9000 after I had seen advertising on a local radio station. After 4-5 treatments on my herniated disc I felt worse than before and was ready to quit and get my money back as the Chiropractor told me I would only get my money back if I stopped before 10 treatments. He convinced me that he would work with me after the treatments and made a promise not to charge me if it did not work. After 10 more treatments I felt not bad in my lower back but I started feeling a bit of pain in my left hip. After I was done my 20 treatments, I had paid for initially, I still had pain, but I was not told I was over the 20 treatments and the Dr. continued to treat me. I later found out he was charging me and had to pay an extra $1,200.00 on top of the $4,000.00 for the extra treatments. On top of that now I am in more pain than when I started the treatments with pain going into my hip and leg which I had not experienced before. Now I am scheduled to get operated on which is the whole reason I paid to have the DRX treatment. My advice is to be cautious on getting treatment and make sure you won't pay a lot of money to have more pain than when you started.

From: Chris – Ontario, Canada

Chiropractor weighs in - decompression may not be for everyone

Approximately 3 years ago, I began treating acute and chronic disc bulge patients with spinal decompression therapy. In talking with other doctors and patients (not all of them successful cases), it appears that the key in the success of spinal decompression depends on whether or not each individual patient is a good candidate for this treatment. After all, not every patient with a "disc bulge" is alike. So many of our patients come to us very well versed on decompression therapy and want to know "Does it Work?". Of course it works. The important thing is whether or not it is the best choice for a particular patient. If a patient feels that the doctor performed a detailed exam (and in most cases an MRI), and can recommend a trial of care with reasonable expectations, decompression therapy can often make a big difference in a patient's quality of life.

From: Matthew Colby, DC - Arizona, USA

Back pain increases with decompression therapy

Have had back fractured two times, compression fracture of T-12 and blown apart L-5 that resulted in 3 surgeries with a triple fusion and narcotics ever since. Have tried numerous methods of treatment and therapy. Recently tried the decompression method and my back pain is more after the treatments than before. Am told it may take many sessions to get to the point it relieves my pain. Beginning to wonder if my ability to pay for treatments will end before my pain. I have been using the DRX900 and am curious to know if other products have better results as posted.

From: Andy - Oklahoma, USA

DRX9000 did not help my bulging discs

I have bulging discs in my lower back from a fall. Tried the DRX9000 - a waste of money. Did nothing at all. Sometimes I felt worse. I am now ready for surgery.

From: Stefa - Florida, USA

Different tables brought variety in pain relief

A lifting injury resulted in 2 bulging lumbar discs. I had chiropractic adjustments for a few months then went out of town and used another chiropractor who put me on a Triton DTS 500 decompression system. I went 2X a week for 6 weeks and after the 3rd or 4th week, the tenderness was gone and the twitching down my left leg was gone. I returned home and after 3 months, the tenderness and twitching returned. I located and used a DRX 9000, and had minimal success even after going 4X week for 6 wks. 10 weeks later and the tenderness was worse, along with the pain. I'm returning to the original Triton DTS soon and hope to recover to the earlier gains. The main difference was that the DTS table had an elevation of the upper torso and was much easier to get the harness on.

From: Kanovich

Decompression gave me significant pain relief immediately

After months of agony an MRI showed an extrusion(the disc at L3 is hanging over the side). My options were invasive therapies, and potentially crippling. Addictive drugs were prescribed, which I did not take. I consulted with my Naturopath/Chiropractor, did a lot of research, and elected to be treated with the Lordex System, similar to other tables. I experienced significant relief from the first treatment, including pain reduction, and also improved range of motion. I slept 8 full hours as well! I have my third treatment today, and I cannot express strongly enough my gratitude for the help and healing I am receiving from the Lordex System!!!!

From: Linda S – Washington, USA

Decompression reduced my leg pain and numbness

I completed 20 sessions of SpineMED spinal decompression. I had a bulging disc at L4-L5 and also L5-S1. The chiropractor sent me for an MRI before treatment to evaluate if I was a candidate, and also after to see the changes. There was a 75% reduction in the bulges and my tingling, numbness, and pain in my legs was completely gone. The technology is great. No surgery or medication! Recommend Highly!

From: John A. – Maryland, USA

Spinal decompression instead of fusion

I completed 20 spinal decompression treatments, over a period of five weeks. My last treatment was 6 weeks ago. Prior to the therapy, I had 8-10 back spasms per day, severe pains in my hips, and when going from a sitting position to attempting to stand, the pain was so severe that my legs would tremble and I sometimes would fall. I had been unable to turn over in bed for about 3 years, the cause being 2 herniated discs and two degenerated discs at the L1-L5 level.

I elected to try spinal decompression instead of a long fusion, and am pleased with the results. I do not have a new back, but my pain has been reduced by 90%! The occasional pains I now experience are short in duration and infrequent. When I do have discomfort, it generally relates to involvement over too long a period of time in some stressful activity. I can comfortably weed my flower garden for an hour, but not four hours. I can sit through a 2 hour lecture, but not a 6 hour lecture. I am able to comfortably turn over in bed and to walk a mile a day; I can get in and out of my car and drive it, and function in all my daily living activities without assistance. At this time I am very satisfied with having gotten my life back, and am no longer on pain and muscle relaxant medications.

My treatments were with a decompression table & harness under the supervision of a chiropractor.

From: Marlene D. – North Carolina, USA

Bad experience with spinal decompression

I believe traction to be the NHS wonder cure for all back problems to make people so frightened of hospitals they get away as fast as possible after the first treatment saying cured, no more pain etc. The truth is you really want to crawl away from the agony you have just been put through to a hole somewhere but can't, you have to appear fine, and be back in work next day. That was my experience 18 years ago, I have complained since of back pain and had x-rays and blood tests - all of which have apparently shown nothing wrong. Moral: do not trust anyone to be able to treat back pain with the "Rack". It may well become your worst nightmare and is permanent.

From: Tim H. - Coventry, UK

I decided against decompression therapy

I had a L5-S1 surgery which led to damage of the S1 nerve. Part of the L5 disc was removed and if I do too much bending, walking, etc. I have tingling in my feet and legs. Also pain in my lower back and hips. My right leg is weaker than my left from top to bottom which results in a slight limp. I went to a local chiropractor who wanted $2500 up front for his spinal decompression treatments which lasted for about 2 months. This didn't seem right to me so I declined. Also my pain doctor said this type of treatment didn't have enough background research for someone with my condition.

From: Kenp - Connecticut, USA

Decompression aggravated my claustrophobia

At the time I had my spinal decompression (through a physiotherapist) it wasn't known at the time (even though I had had X-rays) that my back problem was due to a herniated disc. We were trying non-invasive techniques at this point. I was braced with large leather straps on the table (probably like being on a stretching rack) and as I'm a bit claustrophobic, I felt trapped as I couldn't move. Not knowing what was going to happen, I felt quite panicked. The pressure I felt when he started the decompression was awful - I felt like my head was going to explode. I just said get me out of this thing! The decompression didn't work (and neither did anything else). I had a CT scan, went into surgery and had a microdiscectomy, which relieved my symptoms almost immediately (wonderful). I am always very conscious of my back, and always take great care but since surgery (Feb 2000) I haven't had a niggle (apart from some nerve damage down my left leg which causes numbness). If that's all I ever have to worry about, I think I'll be doing all right. Decompression may work for some people, but it didn't do anything for me, and I certainly wouldn't want to go through that trapped feeling again.

From: Liz - South Australia

Home inversion table helps when I need pain relief

DDD x 15+ years, spinal fusion x 2, and my worse pain occurs whenever anything compresses my back (lifting, stepping down). I use an inversion table at home often, especially when the pain is bad and radiating (similar to the old inversion boots, but more ability to adjust the degree of inversion). It helps within minutes due to the decompressive action. Sometimes the relief is only temporary, but since the table is in the home, I can use it often. The original idea with an inversion table is to rock back and forth, between decompression and compression, in order to force fluid into the discs. This is touted as helping the discs to regenerate. I don't believe that it has done that or that the disease has reversed at all. But maybe by using the table as much as I do, it has helped prevent the problem from worsening. At any rate, it does help me for short periods when I need it the most.

From: Matt - Calgary, Canada

I usually left my traction in more pain

My HMO covered my sessions (24) for diagnosed disk pain. I had traction in a harness all times; 12 on a table, 12 on the floor. All done by a Physical Therapist. Nearly every time I went away in more pain than I came with. I am convinced my back pain is not disk related, but most of the doctors I have been to say differently. I woke up with this pain in April 2003 and have had it since. I have been to Neurologists, Orthopedic Surgeons (2), a Physiatrist, an MD, an Internist, and now a back specialist.

From: ctfedretiree - Connecticut, USA

Decompression helped my low back pain by 75%

Three years ago, something shifted in my lower back and the pain brought me to my knees. From that moment on I have lived in pain. My list of treatment included the following: Rx, orthopedic consult, physical therapy, MRI (misdiagnosed as degenerative disc disease in L4-L5 region, just a sign of aging). Began chiropractic therapy which helped but I wouldn't hold the adjustments and the pain came back. My current chiropractor (this is my second one) requested another MRI. Bingo, found out it was L5-S1 degeneration, herniated disc and narrowing of the foramen supplying innervation to the left leg. Bone was actually rubbing on bone! I was recommended for spinal decompression therapy. I began treatment on the DRX9000 and have 23 treatments to date. The results....I have felt better than I ever had! I can exercise again. I am still dealing with muscle weakness but have no more sciatica. No more creaking and popping followed by burning in my lower back. I have not had chiropractic adjustment now for three weeks! Does the DRX9000 work? In my situation YES! The data claims 86% success. In my situation it is 75% successful. I take those odds over 30% success rate for surgery any day. As far as the financial issue, that expense was far less than having to give up my job and income.

From: Theresa – Texas, USA

I would recommend decompression for low back pain

I have osteoarthritis, hip joint pain and a bulging disc. I have tried chiropractic sessions, cortisone shots, therapy, heat, ice, etc. I saw an ad in a newspaper for a new treatment for back pain at a local chiropractor and decided to try it. The treatment consists of a decompression table and the initial treatment course was 12 sessions over several weeks. My insurance has taken care of most of the cost. It does provide relief (after a day of recovery) for several days, but now I go about once a week for decompression. I would recommend it (and have) for someone with back pain but I have had my problems for so long that I don't think it is as effective for me. I have been getting frustrated with my condition (I am only 33 years old) and am considering surgery.

From: Stacey Robbins – Missouri, USA

My pain relief was instant with traction

I have 3 herniated discs (L5, L4 and L3). Chiropractics with acupuncture provides some relief. Physiotherapist friend and athlete suggested traction three times per week for 15 minutes.

Relief from back pain was almost instant. Still suffering from sciatic pain down left leg caused by cycling (road) and aggravated by doing longer rides i.e. more time on the bike and hilly rides where force is needed to get up the hill!

From: Janine - South Africa

Decompression helped my lower back pain

I originally went in for the spinal decompression. I had been suffering from severe pain on my lower back. I couldn't bend without feeling like something pinching me. My movement daily was simply limited. I found a doctor who tried decompression and I am almost 100% better. I could not stop thanking him .

From: Samantha - New York, USA

Acute back pain relieved by decompression

3 Degenerative discs (L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1) at 25 years old (Male)

In the last 7 years I have attempted chiropractic treatments, physical therapy, manual release therapy, diet changes, I quit smoking, electronic stim, ultrasound, exercise ball regimen, 9-day steroid pack...

Read an article in a magazine of an in-state chiropractor who had a DRX9000 machine. I went on my own with no Rx from another doctor.

I went for 15 sessions, every day for 3 weeks. The table was a split, zero gravity design where you lay on your back with a harness under your rib cage and on top of your pelvis. Cost to me was only the $20 copay per visit so it was a no brainer.

I believe it has relieved some of my acute back pain when bending over or leaning the wrong way but did not provide a high level of relief as I am now experiencing chronic, constant aching low back pain that does not cease with any treatment I have tried since. I was a smoker at the time and may try another round of treatment next year when insurance renews and my body is more capable of repairing the damage when undergoing the decompression treatments.

From: Jack - Connecticut, USA

Decompression made my pain worse

DID NOT WORK. MADE ME WORSE AFTER MY 6TH TREATMENT.

From: Otis


Communicate with others about decompression therapy


* Note: This page expresses the experiences and opinions of patients, not doctors. The Back-to-Back forum is provided because we think people often have very practical advice and insights to share that can benefit other patients who have similar back problems. This section has not been peer reviewed by our Medical Advisory Board, and is provided for your informational purposes only.

If you have questions about your specific condition or treatment approach, please go through this site to read peer-reviewed health information about spinal conditions, diagnosis and treatment options. The quickest way to locate information on the site is to use the “keyword search” located in the upper left hand corner of each page. Also, if you want to talk online with others who may be in a similar situation, please go to the Message Board.

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