Spinal Decompression Treatment
Spinal decompression is a treatment that we use for a lot of disc injuries especially if we have bulges or herniation. Your discs are kind of like a jelly doughnut. You have the jelly on the inside with the thick fibrous tissue on the outside.
Usually when we're walking and jumping it's compressing down, but it's being contained and that water is acting as shock absorber to absorb all the forces from us running and jumping, sitting, and standing and it works pretty darn well. However, over time if we start getting micro tears through the side of the fibers the disc materials starts moving towards the side. A bulge would be if the material was just moving towards the edge and it was still contained within the fibers but extending outwards. The herniation is when the disc material is moving outside this contained area back towards the spinal cord. It can either move in the central aspect or towards the side.
It tends to go to one side instead of straight back by the middle. When it's on the side, people might feel that pain, numbness, tingling, or burning radiating down the leg. It can go to the knee or all the way down to the foot. The more severe of a compression we get on that nerve root, the more symptoms people will have as far as loss of strength, reflexes, or sensation in their foot and ankle. Some people can lose the ability to lift their foot. Others may not have a lot of low back pain with it, but have a lot of leg symptoms. Every herniation is different. What treatment does is it tries and get this area to heal as quickly as it can.
The problem with the lumbar spine is it's a passive system. You need to have movement and motion compressing the area and relaxing and compressing, relaxing to bring blood flow in. It's kind of like stepping on a sponge. You put your weight on the sponge, the water goes to the side, you take your foot off it (the fluid) and the water suck back to the inside.
Imagine that with blood. Blood is coming into the area as the pressure decreases and as we compress the area, blood is going outside the disc. Spinal decompression works to speed that process. We can see how if you have that herniation, decreasing the area might help suck that disc material back towards the inside and take it away from that nerve root. You're also opening up the space to help relieve some of the symptoms and the compression on the nerve root. As the decompression opens and closes the area, it increases the amount of cycles of blood flow coming in and out of the disc.
More blood flow means more nutrients which can speed the healing, and that's the goal with the decompression. You then combine that with proper stretching and strengthening to re-stabilize the core muscles to help protect the low back. It doesn't do us any good to go the decompression, get the disc area to heal but then not re-strengthen the muscles which will just cause the area to blow out again.
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