Jeremy Ohara

Jeremy Ohara

Choosing the Right Spinal Decompression Method for Your Needs

  Jan 17, 2024

If you suffer from back hurting, a pinched nerve, a herniated disc, or other spinal issues, decompression therapy may provide relief. 

Spinal decompression helps take pressure off compressed nerves and discs by gently stretching and mobilizing the spine. 

However, several decompression methods exist. How do you determine the best option? 

Here are the main techniques to consider and factors to help choose the right treatment approach for your situation.

Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy

Spinal decompression and how it could help 

Traction-Based Treatments

Traction involves using a specialized table to gently pull or extend the spine to take pressure off compressed structures. 

During a session, you lie on your back on a split table. A pelvic harness and thoracic harness secure your midsection. 

The table then slowly separates, distracting and decompressing the spine. Sessions typically last 15–30 minutes.

Clinics like Crist Chiropractic in Franklin, TN use advanced traction tables to provide non-surgical spinal decompression tailored to each patient’s needs.

Benefits include:

  • Help relieve distress from herniated/bulging discs, sciatica, degenerative disc disease, and other conditions.
  • Non-invasive with minimal risks.

Do You Know?
The research on Spinal Decompression reveals that 4 years after receiving its treatment, 52% of patients had a pain level of zero, and 91% could resume their normal daily chores. 

  • Provides spinal mobility and takes pressure off nerves. 
  • May reduce the need for distress medication.
  • Often covered by insurance after the initial exam.

Traction medical care requires multiple sessions over several weeks to achieve results. It’s not suitable for patients with osteoporosis or spinal instability. 

Side effects are rare but may include muscle soreness or skin irritation from harnesses.

Inversion Therapy 

Inversion uses gravity to decompress the spine. Special tables allow you to invert your body and hang upside down comfortably by securing your feet and ankles. 

This gently stretches the spine at times relieving pressure on discs and joints. 

Potential benefits include:

  • Relief of back hurting and sciatica symptoms.
  • Reduced nerve pressure.
  • Improved spinal flexibility and range of motion.
  • Enhanced circulation and reduced muscle tension.
  • Prevention of spinal degeneration.

Inversion is considered safe for most people. But consult a doctor first if you have glaucoma, high blood pressure, a heart condition, or are pregnant. Start slowly – begin with partial inversion and short durations. 

Properly securing the body is vital to prevent falls. Ankle discomfort or dizziness can occur but often resolves quickly.

Physical Therapy and Exercise

Physical medical care programs can help strengthen the muscles supporting the spine when improving range of motion, flexibility, and posture. A physical therapist can recommend specific exercises most appropriate for your condition. 

Potential benefits include:

  • Strengthened core muscles to better support the spine.
  • Improved flexibility and mobility of the spine. 
  • Better spinal alignment and posture.
  • Increased circulation to the back and discs.

Interesting Fact:
Back problems are the most frequent cause of activity limitations in working-age individuals. However, about 85% of Americans have experienced spinal problems by the age of 50. 

  • Reduced pressure on compressed nerves.
  • Less reliance on pain medication.

Physical exercises are very low risk when done correctly. They’re ideal for degenerative disc disease, minor herniations, pre- / post-surgery, and spinal stenosis. 

Regularly performing the exercises is key for long-term relief. Those with severe injuries or osteoporosis should use caution and consult a doctor first.

Surgical Spinal Decompression

Surgical Spinal Decompression 


A discectomy involves removing a portion of an intervertebral disc that’s ruptured or herniated and pressing on nerves. It can relieve symptoms like:

  • Severe nerve pain in the back, legs, arms, or neck. 
  • Numbness, tingling, weakness in an extremity.
  • Muscle atrophy.
  • Bowel/bladder dysfunction (in severe cases).

It’s one of the most common spinal procedures. Many patients find significant relief from acute hurting after a discectomy. It has a high success rate when conservative treatments fail. 

However, long-term effectiveness varies by individual. Strict post-op activity restrictions are decisive for recovery. Risks include nerve damage, infection, and herniation.  


This surgery removes the lamina (back part) of one or more vertebrae to relieve pressure on the spinal canal and nerves. It can help with symptoms of:

  • Spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal. 
  • Pinched nerves from bone spurs or disc protrusions.
  • Spinal cord compression. 

Laminectomy provides decompression by creating more space in the spinal canal. Most patients experience reduced hurting and disability. 

However, surgery doesn’t stop the degeneration – the remaining areas may continue to narrow over time. 

Post-op activity limitations help with healing. Risks include bleeding, infection, cerebrospinal fluid leakage, and spinal instability.

Foraminotomy and Bone Spur Removal

A foraminotomy enlarges the neural foramen – an opening where a nerve root exits the spinal canal. This can relieve pinched nerves from issues like: 

Herniated discs, thickened ligaments, or bone spurs compressing nerves as they exit the spine.

Bone spurs (osteophytes) are bony projections that sometimes grow and press on nerves or the spinal cord. Foraminotomy and bone spur removal aim to relieve symptoms of nerve compression, like:

  • Radiating arm/leg pain.
  • Numbness or weakness in an extremity.
  • Balance problems.

Though effective for select patients, these procedures have similar risks as more extensive back surgeries. 

Misaligned segments or instability may worsen after decompression surgery. Talk to your doctor about if this microdecompression approach is appropriate for your condition. 

Factors in Choosing the Right Spinal Decompression Method

Several factors play a role in determining if surgical or non-surgical spinal decompression is most appropriate for your situation.

Age and Overall Health

Older patients tend to prefer more conservative treatments to avoid surgical risks. Younger, healthier individuals make better surgical candidates. 

Talk to your doctor about your age, activity levels, and overall health status.

Condition Severity 

Mild problems may respond well to non-surgical decompression like traction or physical therapy. 


The graph mentioned above indicates the global spinal decompression/traction devices market was valued at USD 3.98 billion in 2021. The growth was estimated at a CAGR of 4.24% during the forecast period from 2023 to 2028, to reach USD 5.09 billion by 2028. 

However, moderate to severe spinal stenosis, herniated discs, or bone spurs causing acute nerve compression may require surgery.

Personal Preferences

Your lifestyle, values, and treatment goals also matter. Some patients wish to avoid surgery if possible and are willing to try slower non-surgical options first. Others have debilitating pain and prioritize rapid relief.

Risks vs. Benefits 

Every spinal decompression method has pros and cons. Often less invasive options like traction therapy are safer but can take weeks to relieve hurting. 

Surgery brings risks but may offer more complete relief, especially in severe, acute cases.

Talk to Your Doctor 

Choosing between spinal decompression methods involves weighing many factors. Meet with your spine specialist or doctor to discuss your symptoms, spinal issues, health status, treatment goals, and personal preferences. 

Ask which options are best suited for your situation. A professional opinion is key to making an informed decision.

Second Opinions

Don’t hesitate to consult another spinal specialist or get a second opinion if you have any concerns about the recommended treatment plan. Additional input can help you make the most educated decision.


If back problems are disrupting your life, spinal decompression therapy may help. If surgical or non-surgical methods are best depends on your specific condition, overall health, risk tolerance, and personal preferences. 

By understanding the pros and cons of each spinal decompression approach, meeting with top specialists, and gathering multiple opinions, you can select the ideal treatment option for lasting distress relief.