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Spinal Decompression Therapy

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Who Should not Have Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression?

Ask your doctor whether or not you are a good candidate for nonsurgical spinal decompression. It is best not to try it if you are pregnant. People with any of these conditions should also not have nonsurgical spinal decompression:

  • Fracture
  • Tumor
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Advanced osteoporosis
  • Metal implants in the spine

What Is Surgical Spinal Decompression?

Surgical spinal decompression is another option for treating certain types of back pain. But it is usually used as a last resort. If other measures don't work, your doctor may suggest surgical spinal decompression for bulging or ruptured disks, bony growths, or other spinal problems. Surgery may help relieve symptoms from pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, including:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness

Are There Different Types of Spinal Decompression Surgery?

Your doctor may suggest one or more types of back surgeries to relieve the pressure in your spine. In addition, you may need spinal fusion to stabilize your spine. The following are the more common types of back surgery:

  • Diskectomy: In this procedure, a portion of the disk is removed to relieve pressure on nerves.
  • Laminotomy or laminectomy: A surgeon removes a small portion of bone -- a section of bony arch or the entire bony arch -- to increase the size of the spinal canal and relieve pressure.
  • Foraminotomy or foraminectomy: A surgeon removes bone and other tissue to expand the openings for nerve roots.
  • Osteophyte removal: During the surgery, bony growths are removed.
  • Corpectomy: This procedure involves removing the disk between the vertebrae.

What Are the Risks of Spinal Decompression Surgery?

As with any surgery, there are risks. These are some of the more common risks associated with spinal decompression surgery:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia
  • Nerve or tissue damage

Another risk of surgery is that it may not improve back pain much. It can be difficult to determine who will benefit from spinal decompression surgery.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 20, 2012
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