Spinal Decompression vs Inversion Table: What is the Difference?

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Spinal Decompression

Spinal decompression and inversion tables are the two major techniques that can be used to cure you of back spasms and spinal issues. In other words, if you have any problem relating to your spine, your healthcare professional is most likely going to recommend that you take either of these treatments.

Hence, there is a need to know about these treatments.

In this article, we are going to discuss spinal decompression vs inversion table therapy and what they mean. We will also talk about the functions they perform, how they work, the benefits inherent in each type of treatment, the side effects and much more.

Furthermore, we will weigh them against each other. Therefore, if you are experiencing back pain and you’re suspecting you might need to go for either of these treatments, here is an opportunity for you to learn about them. Keep reading.

Anatomy of the spine

The human spine is made of up of a column of several short bones known as the vertebrae. There are 33 vertebrae in all. Among these vertebrae, the 24 in the upper part of the spine are flexible and allow movement while the lower 9 are fused (stiff and immobile).

Each vertebra is separated from the next by a thin layer of a ligament known as the intervertebral disc. These discs serve as shock-absorbers between two successive vertebrae, preventing them from coming in contact with each other. Due to a number of reasons, one of which is age, there could be changes to the pressure level in the spine.

These changes, in turn, can cause discs to get deformed. The deformity can take many forms. It could be in the form of the discs losing their flexibility, or reducing in thickness. The discs can even become slightly displaced from their natural position. When this happens, the individual begins to feel discomfort and general back pain and spasms.

However, discs cannot repair themselves easily because the blood supply to them is limited. Therefore, it might become necessary to resort to artificial therapy to rectify the anomaly. This is where spinal decompression vs inversion table comes into the picture.

What is spinal decompression? 

Spinal decompression is a therapy aimed at relieving you of back/spine problem. The therapy is made up of a series of sessions designed to reduce the pressure that has built up in your soft disc cushions (in the intervertebral discs). Spinal decompression is carried out on a decompression table by a licensed professional known as a chiropractor.

A chiropractor is a trained expert in matters involving the spine and you must be sure that the chiropractor whose services you will be engaging is registered and licensed to carry out the treatment. This is necessary because spinal decompression is a calculated therapy that requires a high degree of expertise. Also, accuracy is important in order for the therapy to be effective.

There are two forms of spinal decompression treatments, namely nonsurgical decompression and surgical decompression. The approach to employ will depend on the extent of your spinal problem as determined by the chiropractor.

Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression Therapy

Nonsurgical decompression involves the application of a kind of traction. A decompression table is connected to a computer which has been programmed using a series of meticulous calculations. The programmed computer controls the movement of the decompression table.

Hence, both of these gadgets make up the traction system. The traction system works by pulling the segments of your spine apart. You do not have to fear because the process is not a painful one. In fact, you will be very relaxed during the entire process.

This form of treatment is quite effective, with a nearly 80% success rate reported among patients who went all the way to complete the therapy. In addition, it is quite inexpensive compared to the surgical decompression method. It is estimated to cost anything between $100 to $200 per session. This means you will spend no more than $5,000 for a 25-session therapy.

Surgical Decompression

Surgical decompression is done in a hospital. If your condition is very severe, non-surgical spinal decompression may not work effectively and your healthcare provider or chiropractor may decide that surgical spinal decompression is more appropriate. Right now, there are no less than five different types of decompression surgeries. They all focus on the removal of parts of the discs, vertebrae or connective tissues.

Surgical decompression techniques are quite intensive. Also, they are financially demanding and surgeries costing more than $10,000 are not uncommon. These surgical operations can also have side effects which include blood clots, tissue damage and allergic reactions to the anesthetics used.

However, decompression surgeries are highly effective and have a higher success rate than nonsurgical decompression therapy. According to Cleveland Clinic, around 90% of the people who opt for this procedure reported significant relief to their spine.

What is an inversion table? 

An inversion table is one type of equipment that can be used to perform inversion therapy. It is a well-padded table that is attached to a metal frame in such a way that it can rotate around the hinges and tilt over a wide range of angles. It can even flip over so that it is aligned horizontally.

Inversion therapy itself is another method that is employed in the treatment of back pains and problems relating to the spine. It is different from spinal decompression therapy in a number of ways which we will examine later. If you are undergoing inversion therapy using an inversion table, you will be positioned in such a way that you are hanging down at an angle. The treatment is exactly true to its name, as involves you being inverted.

Inversion therapy is thought to work on the principle of reverse gravity. It is believed that when an individual is inverted in such a way that their feet are up and above their head, the effect of gravity on the spine can be reversed. It is known that gravity leads to the gradual compression of the spine and this could cause chronic back pain. Inversion therapy is quite popular among people experiencing pain at the lower part of their backbone.

It ideally uses your body weight to stretch your spine and depressurize your spine. If you are inverted, the load pressure on the lower part of the backbone is relieved. It is believed that inversion therapy can help to decompress the spine and provide relief to the patient. Hence, this method could be appropriate for you if you have lower back pain.

Also, it is not uncommon to see individuals who perform inversion therapy on their own. However, this is not safe. Inversion therapy is better carried out under supervision.

Benefits of Inversion Tables

There are several benefits that you can derive from using inversion tables. The benefits even go beyond relieving the pressure in the spine and pain in your back. Some of them are listed below

  • Rehydrate Discs

Your discs are important shock absorbers. Therefore it is imperative that they are well moisturized. The pressure on the lower spine as a result of the weight of the upper part of the spine on it will cause the spine to become decompressed, which will, in turn, reduce the space in the discs.

This will force the fluid in this space to escape to neighboring tissues. The result is that you will experience reduced flexibility, and the shock-absorbing abilities of the affected vertebrae will be greatly inhibited.

However, when your body is inverted, the lower spine is free from the load and the pressure is reduced. This will allow fluid to flow back into the space created, thereby increasing the nutrients in the discs and improving their shock-absorbing abilities.

  • Correct Misaligned Vertebrae

The pain you experience in your back could be due to some discs that have slipped slightly out of their natural position. A little misalignment of the bones in the body is enough to cause a great deal of pain for you.

Your day-to-day behaviors and activities, for example, the way you sit, could play a huge role in building up stress in your spine.

It is usually difficult for the vertebrae of the column to readjust themselves once they come out of place. However, using an inversion table tilted at an angle of about 60° can go a long way in readjusting the vertebrae. A little stretching and easing of the pressure on the vertebrae, which an inversion table allows you to do, can correct the anomaly.

  • Helps to relax your Tense muscles

Your muscles will be slightly stretched when you make use of an inversion table. This leads to an increase in circulation which will, in turn, help to reduce tension.

  • Alleviate Stress

As said earlier, inversion therapy will not only help to relieve your back pain, it can also help do a number of other things. One of these is that it can help ease your stress. When inverted, you are made to feel relaxed.

  • Enhance Fitness

Inversion tables will help build up your fitness levels. Inverting can help you strengthen your core. The muscles that make up your core are essential in supporting your upper body. Hence, it invariably helps to build your fitness.

Risks Associated with Inversion Therapy

Although a number of people have reportedly achieved success using this method, there is very little scientific evidence to back up the efficacy of the method and a lot of medical experts are skeptical about it. They have raised a few points which suggest that inversion tables are not ideal for relieving spinal pains. In fact, the procedure is known to carry some risks, which include:

  • During an inversion therapy session, there is a surge in blood pressure. The pressure on the eyes (glaucoma) also increases when you’re turned upside down. As a result of this, the inversion table is very dangerous, especially for people suffering from glaucoma, high blood pressure and heart-related diseases.
  • It is not safe to hang down for too long as it can cause blood to pool to the head. This can lead to a coma or even death. You should not stay inverted for too long at a time. Ideally, a session should not last for more than 30 minutes.
  • Furthermore, if you’re not careful when strapping yourself to the table, it can be dangerous because you can fall off the table and hit your head against a hard object. Hence you need to be careful and meticulous.

How to Use Inversion Tables

  • Find a fairly large space to put your inversion table

Ensure you position your inversion table in a place that is spacious. It is necessary for space to be around the table as a matter of safety precaution because this will eliminate any potential danger that may result from you hitting any obstacle when using the table.

  • Set the table to your height

The height of all inversion tables is adjustable in order to provide the specific height requirement of every individual. There is an adjustment knob that you can use for this purpose. Use the adjustment knob to regulate the height of the table so that it suits your taste. Ensure that you tighten the knob when you’re done with the height adjustment.

  • Strap yourself securely

Once you’ve set the table to your height, climb onto it and strap yourself properly and securely to avoid an accident. Lay your back on the table and allow it to recline so that you’re looking at the ceiling. Remain in this position for some time.

  • Incline the table

It is important to do things a step at a time. Begin your foray into inversion by inclining the table gently at low degrees of inclination – about 10° is good enough for a start. Be careful not to incline the table at a steep angle because it can cause dizziness and headache for you if you’re a rookie. Ask someone to supervise you when you make use of it.

  • Increase usage with time

Improve on the tilt angle and the time spent for each session. Also, partake in inversion therapy sessions more often. You can invert as many times a day as you want.

Similarities between decompression and inversion tables

  • Both are methods are used to treat pain in the spine.

Differences between decompression and inversion tables

  • Decompression therapy requires a certified professional (chiropractor) to carry out the therapy but this is not necessary for inversion tables.
  • Decompression therapy can focus specifically on the affected disc/vertebrae but an inversion table has a rather general treatment which broadly covers the entire spine.
  • An inversion table provides short-term relief but decompression therapy provides relief for a much longer period. Evasive decompression methods are more or less permanent.