When it comes to chiropractic care, there are a number of techniques available for use, and which works best is based on each patient’s particular issue.
Additionally, each technique has its own protocol for treatment. It is the goal of this article to go over the protocol in regards to spinal decompression therapy.
Before we begin, it is important for you to understand that the information provided is, of course, meant to be a basic guideline. As each patient is individual in their treatment needs, adjustments will have to be made to consider the particular issues at hand. Furthermore, these protocols have been created by compiling information from various chiropractors and spinal care providers via various online sources.
The typical spinal decompression patient engages in anywhere from 12 to 25 visits, depending largely on the extent of the compression and how well the patient responds to spinal decompression therapy. The patient is seen roughly four times a week for the first couple of weeks before dropping down to visits three times a week for the remainder of the treatment plan, which usually ends up being anywhere from four to six weeks in total. It is important to get the patient to commit to this type of schedule for the best results.
What happens during each visit
During the first visit, a patient work-up is completed. This includes obtaining a statement of the problem, the history of issues and symptoms, and performing any tests necessary to determine the extent of the spinal compression. This will likely include X-rays, having the patient attempt simple movements, and a physical exam. Other options include referring the patient for an MRI or CT scan to obtain more in-depth results.
On each visit thereafter, the patient gets adjusted before engaging in decompression therapy, which is roughly 25 to 45 minutes in length. The force is increased in stages until the patient experiences a lessening or elimination of the symptoms, such as numbness or pain.
Prior to spinal decompression therapy, heat may be applied in an effort to relax the muscles and soften the related tissues. Ice and electrical stimulation may be applied afterward to further enhance the recovery process.
It is also helpful to assist the patient with stretching during the first few sessions. Rehabilitative exercises to strengthen the core can be added as the patient progresses, giving him or her a better chance of recovery. Additionally, a back brace may be helpful, as well.
Steven Shoshany, DC, of New York City, told Spine-health that patients are generally “feeling better by visit number five or six.” However, some don’t experience total relief until the entire spinal decompression therapy plan has ended.1
Some suggest that midway through the treatments, the patient should be assessed to determine progress. This will likely include the same type of testing that took place pre-treatment. Depending on the findings, treatment will either continue as planned or be modified for better results.
Upon conclusion of spinal decompression therapy, a review is conducted to determine the results, forwarding them to the patient’s primary physician if applicable. From there, the patient is placed on a maintenance program which generally consists of monthly chiropractic visits and a home exercise program to continue with progress and limit re-injury issues.
1 Davis E, Marten S, Shoshany S. “Doctor perspectives: Chiropractors discuss spinal decompression for back pain.” Spine-health. http://www.spine-health.com/blog/doctor-perspectives-chiropractors-discuss-spinal-decompression-back-pain. Published November 2010. Accessed April 2015.