Spinal decompression is an alternative therapy designed with the goal of alleviating pain and promoting healing of the intervertebral disc.

In This Article:

Indications for Spinal Decompression Therapy

The indications for spinal decompression therapy (given by its proponents) are relatively broad.

It is often recommended as a treatment alternative for many types of lower back pain, sciatica (leg pain), or neck pain caused by a herniated disc, bulging disc, or degenerated disc.


Contraindications for Spinal Decompression Therapy

Stretching the spine to relieve back pain is not appropriate for some patients. The following groups of people are not good candidates for non-surgical spinal decompression:

  • Pregnant women
  • Patients with broken vertebrae
  • Patients who have had spinal fusion
  • c or other implants, in their spine
  • Patients with failed back surgery
  • Anyone who has had multiple surgeries without recovery (pain improvement)
  • Patients with any of the following conditions are also not good candidates:
    • Osteoporosis, or osteopenia
    • Spondylolisthesis
    • Spinal stenosis
    • Spinal infection
    • Spinal tumor
    • Ankylosing spondylitis
    • Any condition that may compromise the integrity of the spine
    • Any condition requiring the patient to take blood thinner medication

Additionally, patients with neck and arm pain may experience worsening of their symptoms, in which case decompression therapy should be discontinued. In general, any patient who experiences pain during the spinal decompression procedure or after the procedure is likely not a good candidate for this type of therapy.

Dr. Ralph Gay is a physiatrist at the Mayo Clinic. With more than 20 years of clinical experience, he specializes in rehabilitation therapy and non-surgical spine care. Dr. Gay is involved in research and focuses on lower back pain causes and treatments.