Category: Therapy

non-surgical spinal decompression

Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression: Is it Right For You?

Pain, pain go away!

Sometimes, I come across patients who have suffered a pain condition for a long time that no therapies have resolved, despite our best efforts. It can be frustrating, debilitating and depressing to get no relief. Fortunately for some conditions, I’m able to recommend a treatment alternative that has been very successful for many of my patients: non-surgical spinal decompression.

Spinal decompression is a therapy designed with the goal of alleviating pain and promoting healing of the intervertebral disc. It’s recommended for sufferers of many types of back pain, neck pain and arm/leg pain, tingling and numbness associated with spinal nerve irritation.

It’s not appropriate for every pain condition, but it is a tool in our toolbox of pain treatment. So let’s take a look at non-surgical spinal decompression for pain relief and you can decide if it’s something to discuss with your physician.


How spinal decompression works

In a nutshell, spinal decompression stretches the spine by having the patient lie on a traction table (or similar motorized device). The device stretches and relaxes the spine intermittently in a controlled fashion. The thinking behind this approach is that if we create negative pressure within the disc itself, a couple of things can happen.

First, the process can retract or reposition the herniated or bulging disc material back into the disc. But also, it can promote the influx of healing nutrients into the disc, which will foster a better environment for healing to occur.

We conduct this treatment right in our office. During this therapy, patients lie on the traction table (either face up or face down, depending on the area of treatment and patient comfort).

non-surgical spinal decompressionFor the low back, a harness is placed around the hips and is attached to the foot side of the equipment. The lower half of the table slides back and forth with a back and forth with a setting of a calculated number pounds of force while the upper portion remains fixed, creating an alternating axial decompression and rest. For the neck, the patient rests their head in a comfortable neck cradle while a specific number of pounds of pressure pulls the head and neck gently alternating between axial decompression and rest.

Many of my patients wonder if this process is painful. The answer is no. If you are having spinal decompression therapy, you should feel no pain during or after the treatment and only a stretching sensation in the spine.


“I really enjoy having decompression as an option for patients with arm or leg pain, tingling or numbness that is not responding to chiropractic and physical therapy. We really don’t like have to send a patient for a surgical consultation. For those few patients who aren’t getting well with chiropractic and physical therapy, the decompression typically works well and we can avoid sending them to a surgeon,” said Dr. Sharman


Treatment length and associated costs

Most spinal decompression therapy involves anywhere from 10 to 20 treatments, lasting about 15 minutes each. Best results are achieved by having treatment 3 to 4 times a week at least for the first 10 sessions. In our office, the cost is $40 per session. Patients can receive 15% off if they purchase a package of 10 for $340, making the session $34 a visit. We do not bill insurance for spinal decompression.

Like most pain relief therapies we recommend, I also encourage other therapies to go along with spinal decompression to help it be more effective. This may include electric stimulation, ultrasound, cold/heat therapy applied during or after spinal decompression treatment. I also find myself recommending that patients drink up to a half-gallon of water each day, rest (always), participate in a nutritional supplement protocol and perform exercises on their own to increase their strength and mobility.

Getting rid of pain doesn’t happen overnight – so patients that are a good fit for spinal decompression need to be prepared for a many weeks process and a commitment to follow the treatment approach I recommend.


Pros/Cons – and success rate for spinal decompression

You may know someone who has had spinal compression therapy. The concept has been around for a number of years, but there has not been enough clinical evidence to support the claims of its effectiveness. However, many believe that the positive results of the patients speak for themselves. And countless chiropractors have been using spinal decompression – with positive results – for over ten years.


  • Overall reduction in pain and ability to return to daily activities
  • May start getting relief after five or six treatments
  • May have reduction in the size of the disc herniation
  • Avoid surgery and drugs
  • Safe, with no pain and little if any side effects


  • Lasting relief may not happen until protocol is finished, which may be four to six weeks
  • Protocol may require as many as four visits per week
  • Can get expensive, due to the number of treatments


Final verdict

Like many treatment options, non-surgical spinal decompression won’t work for everyone. And for certain groups of people, such as pregnant women, people with metal hardware in the area of treatment and others, it’s not an option. However, for those who DO qualify and have the right pain condition to respond to spinal decompression, it can be the pain relief answer they’ve been looking for.

My hope is that we will continue to invest in clinical research into this therapy so as to present more evidence to show what we, as chiropractors, have experienced with our patients. If you think spinal decompression is an approach you’d like to consider for relieving your pain condition, please let me know. Schedule a free consultation to see if you are a candidate for decompression. If I think it’s a good fit and will benefit you, we’ll work together to assemble a treatment plan.


Dr. Sharman

dry needling for pain

Dry Needling for Pain Relief: A New Tool for Your Pain Toolkit

Believing that needles can actually REDUCE one’s pain may sound far-fetched to some of you.

We don’t typically think of something we associate with getting shots as something that can reduce or remove our pain. However, dry needling is helping a lot of pain sufferers feel better – and we now offer this pain relief technique at Life Care!

With the addition of our new doctor of chiropractic, Dr. Betel Aklilu, we now have a practitioner experienced in dry needling. We sat down with Dr. A to get answers to the types of questions you might have about dry needling so we can educate our patients on the technique.


Dry needling explained

For starters, the needles are dry. The reason the needles are described as “dry” is that they do not involve injecting any type of medication into the skin. Thin, solid needles are inserted into the skin at the myofascial trigger points of muscles. Specifically, the needles penetrate the taut band of skeletal muscle located within a larger muscle group. The purpose of the needle placement is to create a relaxation response and increase range of motion within the muscle group.

Dr. A got interested in dry needling because she saw it as a simple, non-invasive yet effect way to improve pain.

“I had seen other providers use it to enhance healing of their patients, and I wanted to do the same. I have always been passionate about finding holistic, safe, effective treatments for treating pain. Dry needling is widespread in Europe and other parts of the world but it is still fairly underutilized in the United States. Dry needling therapy treats soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) dysfunction and has proven remarkably effective in treating a vast number of myofascial syndromes,” shared Dr. A.

The needles used to perform dry needling are similar to acupuncture needles – but be clear, dry needling is very different than acupuncture. Acupuncturists insert needles to release endorphins and affect the nervous system, aligning a person’s “chi” or healing energy. Dry needling is really about muscles – and relieving the tightness and pain with needle placement.

“This therapy is based on palpatory findings and an understanding of anatomy, physiology, and neurology. Thus, it is a separate system of healing unrelated to the laws and philosophy of acupuncture,” said Dr. A.


Good candidates for dry needling

Certain pain conditions respond better to dry needling than others. Practitioners believe dry needling can be effective for the following conditions:

  • Neck, back and shoulder pain (i.e., whiplash, frozen shoulder)
  • Arm pain, such as tennis elbow
  • Migraine and tension headaches
  • Hip, buttock and leg pain (i.e., sciatica)
  • Muscle spasms

Dry needle therapy cannot be done on areas of open wounds or over a pacemaker. It is not recommended during high-risk pregnancies or for patients with needle phobias or genetic bleeding disorders.


Reasons to try dry needling

For starters, it has proven to decrease pain in folks who are candidates for the technique. Dr. A believes in trying it as a part of a patient’s overall treatment plan.

“When dry needle therapy is coupled with chiropractic adjustments, patients feel relief faster and their adjustments typically hold longer because we have impacted both the musculoskeletal and nervous system,” she said.

RELATED: Every New Chiropractic Patient Needs to Know This

By releasing the tightness in muscles, patients can move more freely and experience increased mobility. Dr. A, like Dr. Sharman, is always in favor of getting patients back into the activities they love as quickly as possible. Dry needling can assist in speeding up this process.

Another reason to try dry needling is that the side effects are minimal and very short term. Any achiness or fatigue from treatment only lasts about 24 hours.

As well, patients become less reliant on medication for pain control. For people looking for more natural pain solutions, dry needling should be a part of their toolkit.

Finally, dry needling is very cost-effective when you compare it to surgery or long-term medication use.

Dr. A generally asks patients to have dry needling done two to five times in span of two weeks. However, this varies depending on the patient’s condition, and Dr. A cautions that relief is not always immediate. Like any therapy, it can take time to bring about the pain relief a patient is seeking.


Is dry needling for you?

It may be. At Life Care, we’ll start with getting an accurate diagnosis for your pain condition – and see if dry needling is recommended as a part of your PAIN TOOLKIT. It won’t be for everyone, but we are thrilled that, thanks to Dr. A, we now have this as an option in our holistic approach to healing. Be sure to reach out if you want to learn more – or schedule a diagnostic appointment with Dr. A.


Dr. Sharman