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We hear quite frequently of people looking for treatment for a slipped, herniated or bulging disc, and they may have been told there’s little that can be done, perhaps surgery may have been recommended, or they may have been taking painkillers just to get through their daily life. If you’ve seen any of our videos in the past, or read any of our articles, you’ve likely understood that conditions like slipped or herniated discs, as well as most other back conditions, are caused by a failure of your spine to deal with the compressive loading of gravity. This can be either a one-off event, or something that has been done consistently over a period of time, but it will have caused the discs and joints in the spine to start to wear and tear, become symptomatic and bring on pain.

This ‘failure’ of your spine, occurs as a result of frequent poor posture. When you adopt poor posture for long periods of time, the ligaments in your spine start to remodel and it soon becomes more comfortable for you to sit with poor posture. If you have correct posture, your spine is aligned in such a way that you can effectively distribute the weight of gravity that’s placed on it everyday. With incorrect posture, this places more pressure on areas of the spine that just aren’t designed to extensively weight bear. This causes the discs in that area to be placed under more pressure, which can eventually lead to them bulging. The most common areas for this to happen are the lower back or in the neck, as these are the areas of the spine that are often neglected when it comes to posture.

How Does Spinal Decompression Work?

Now you understand how a herniated disc can occur, you’ll be able to understand just how effective decompression can be for treating a herniated disc and relieving the associated symptoms. Spinal decompression therapy is performed on a flat bed, the patient lies on the bed and is secured using straps in the designated area – either the upper body to target the neck, or the lower body to target the lumbar spine. A very controlled, gentle stretch is then performed before the bed retracts to the original position. This happens gradually over a set period of time to achieve exactly the opposite effect that compressive loading is putting on your spine on a daily basis. It relieves the pressure on those discs to help them return to their original state, encourage nutrients back into the disc space and create the right environment for your discs to heal. The discs should occupy a specific space in between two vertebra, and if they occupy that space it should have a specific height to it. If the height drops because there’s too much compression, it’s natural that the disc will bulge out to the side. If you imagine the disc as a balloon, under pressure from both sides instead of being perfectly round you’ll find it squashes and bulges. Once the pressure is removed, it returns to its original state. Once pressure is relieved from the disc, you get a decompressing effect that pulls the material back towards the centre, relieving some of the pressure on the nerves and decreasing levels of inflammation.

Why Is Spinal Decompression Helpful?

Fundamentally, spinal decompression is a very helpful treatment to take the pressure off the discs, which we use in conjunction with our other therapies to make it even more effective. As most cases of back pain occur from neglect of posture and the resulting compression and remodelling it causes in more compromised areas of the spine, most patients can benefit from spinal decompression – because it’s helping to oppose the pressures and stresses or daily life. Having said this, we do check that a patient doesn’t have any contraindications – this is assessed on an individual basis. We test very thoroughly to see their suitability, how we should do it specifically, what angle we should be pulling at, whether we should do it with them lying on their back or front. The goal is to make spinal decompression as targeted as possible with the right amount of pull cycles, to make sure that the decompression helps that person the most it possibly can during the time they’re here.

How Can Spinal Decompression Be Made More Effective?

In combination with spinal decompression, we use our other three therapies: spinal adjusting, vibration and laser therapy. Instead of using manual adjustment, if a patient has any particular misalignment, we use a spinal adjusting machine – a much less aggressive form of adjustment that helps with realignment. Vibration is used on the muscles to ease tension and stiffness, which can occur as a protective mechanism over an injury, or as a direct result of using your body in a certain way while you’re injured. For example, if you were to stub your toe, you’d likely walk differently to ease the pain – the same happens if you were to injure your spine. The behaviour you adopt as a result of injury may not be comfortable if you weren’t injured, so the muscles respond by tensing and stiffening up.

Likewise, when you’re injured you tend to rest more and be generally more stationary. When you remain stationary, muscles become shorter and connective tissue thickens at the end, this is why it can feel relieving to stretch after a long period of inactivity. When left for too long, micro-adhesions form between the layers of the muscle and ‘stick’ them together. Stretching alone at this point is not enough to break down the adhesions, and the muscle will not be able to relax. Vibration can alleviate muscle tension by getting them to move, in a small way at first, to break down those adhesions and increase the circulation. Finally, laser therapy is a powerful anti-inflammatory tool we use to target injured structures. Using light therapy, laser targets the injury at a cellular level to increase circulation, build new blood vessels and help to heal the area more completely without scar tissue.

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If you’ve been suffering with back or neck pain, perhaps you’ve seen other specialists in the past who’ve been unable to help and are looking for a more advanced treatment to resolve the problem, call The Mayfair Clinic today to see how we can help. Call us on 0203 947 3222 or email us at info@themayfairclinic.com to speak with a member of the team! If you have any questions about spinal decompression or any of the other therapies we offer here, make sure to get in touch. Remember to share if you know someone who could benefit from our treatment, and sign up to our newsletter if you don’t want to miss any of our articles.