Back-to-Back: Patients share tips on experiences with spinal decompression

Read our peer-reviewed article about spinal decompression:

All About Spinal Decompression Therapy

Want to know more about spinal decompression from those who have been affected most? In our Back-to-Back section, patients share tips and advice about using non-surgical spinal decompression to treat their back problems. Please visit our message boards to discuss spinal decompression, including the different types of chiropractic equipment used for this treatment.

Spinal decompression therapy worth trying before surgery

At age 25, I was in a car accident, it's been 2 years now. I suffered from a herniated disc at L4/L5 and had severe sciatic pain down both my legs. Some days I could barely move. I tried several chiropractic treatments, which only gave relief for 5 minutes, until I sat again. The pain was horrific. I was a candidate for a few surgeries, removing the disc, fusing it, or a new one -cutting a happy face slice in my stomach, going past my aorta, removing the disc and replacing it with a new one. There was a 2% chance of death with this surgery, but was my only option to relieve both my back and leg pain. I heard about spinal decompression therapy and thought I would try it before attempting surgery.


The treatment didn't hurt a lot, but lying flat on my back was excruciating pain (the MRI was torturous pain for me as well). The recovery was hard, because for a good month you're not to do anything but lay down and ice, and wear a brace when you move. It's been 6 months now, I have felt up to 70-80% better over the last 4 months, but still can't do much, as the recovery time in total can be up to 2 years, meaning I'm not lifting anything or pushing my body physically in this time (but I feel good and want to). If I don't do my stretches I pay a hefty price, I have repercussions, but never worse than before the SDT. I do physical work and am not to return to it, but for someone whose job is not physically demanding, you would be able to return quicker. In total there's a lot more effort required, but in my opinion, worth the try before going to surgery.

From: Kristy – Muskoka, Canada


Skeptical about decompression benefits

I have just finished treatment 10 of 20 with the decompression table. I have a bulging disc at L4 and L5.I had surgery on them in March of 2000.Everything had fine up until the last 6 months when I started having the same pains in my leg and side I had before the surgery. I work out at the gym and tried to stay in shape. I believe re-injured the disc by doing yard work (weed eating for about 3 hours). The decompression treatments offered some relief with the first 2 sessions but it seems to have gotten worse with each session after that. Medication doesn't even help the pain any longer. I think I will stop the treatments and try a new surgery were they put a balloon in, which is supposed to be permanent thing. The decompression treatment cost me $4500. It just seems they are more interested in getting the numbers instead of helping the person. If not, why are not more insurance companies paying for the treatment verses the expensive cost of another surgery?

From: Mike – Virginia, USA

Decompression relieves spinal nerve pressure

I have been using spinal decompression in my Manhattan practice for the last 2 years. I have seen patients that normally would have been referred to the neurosurgeon for a surgical consult. If patients are appropriately picked, the outcomes are much more reliable. This procedure is not a panacea, as some doctors advertise, however, it does work great with lower lumbar disc herniations and pain associated with spinal nerve pressure.

From: Dr. Steven

Watch out for chiropractors who charge too much for decompression

Do your research before you get conned into spending way too much for your decompression treatment. My husband was recently evaluated for the therapy and we were 'accepted into the program' at the cost of $6800 for 20 treatments. I had already done some internet research and found that treatments should cost no more than $125-$150. There are predatory chiros out there so beware. When we said we wanted to think about it we were told "You can't put a price on pain relief." Yes you can. We found another office that does it for $75 a treatment and he will start the treatments this afternoon.

From: Janis - California, USA

The right decompression table helped me avoid fusion surgery

3 Degenerative Discs (probably more) L3-L4, L4-L5, L5-S1, spinal stenosis, spondylolthesis, yet very active 37-year-old female. Back pain since 23, chronic since 27. Physical therapy, tens unit, epidurals, facet injection, pain meds, inversion table, acupuncture, chiropractic... nothing helped long-term. Very difficult pregnancy. Had discogram pre-surgery, discouraged fusion on 3 discs. Orthopaedic doctor no help, live with pain. D.O. recommended spinal decompression. After 35 visits, found relief with addition of multifidus strengthening exercises. Tried 2 different tables - correct table is key. Visits every 3 weeks. I would highly recommend decompression.

From: Sonnie – Iowa, USA

Need advice or want to give some? 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.