Guide patients in-office and out-of-office for chiropractic spinal decompression
There are two types of chiropractic patients: those who rely solely on the chiropractor and his treatment, and those who go the extra mile.
There are those who rely solely on you to treat their musculoskeletal issues — doing everything you say while in your office, but almost forgetting about your lifestyle advice once they walk out your doors, And there are those who are willing to go the extra mile in an effort to improve the health and wellness of their spine and surrounding tissues, even if it means taking additional actions at work and home.
Speaking specifically about patients who fall into the second category, some attempt to achieve this goal by purchasing a chiropractic spinal decompression inversion table or device that can be used between chiropractic visits. While this shows that they are active participants in their own health care process, the problem that can potentially evolve is that they may not fully understand when this piece of equipment should and should not be used, or even how it should be used.
When spinal decompression inversion tables work best
Studies have found that spinal compression therapy can be beneficial for patients with herniated or bulging discs. For instance, one piece of research published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine involved six patients, each of whom engaged in a multimodal spinal therapy which included chiropractic spinal decompression.
Authors of this study reported that “positive and statistically significant outcomes were obtained” with regard to a number of factors. Among these were disc height and functional rating, as well as patient height. Participants also experienced improvements in pain and lung function.
Another study involving 30 patients with lumbar disc herniation was printed in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders and found similar results. Specifically, after undergoing six weeks of non-surgical chiropractic spinal decompression, the participants had reductions in low-back pain (going from a 6.2 to a 1.6) and increases in disc height (from 7.5 mm to 8.8).
Though this second study did involve the use of a motorized spinal decompression device, one could argue that similar results could potentially be obtained using a spinal decompression inversion table since both pieces of equipment are designed to elongate the spine.
As with any treatment remedy, spinal decompression inversion therapy isn’t right for everyone. So, which patients should avoid this type of treatment altogether?
When decompression inversion treatment should be avoided
If the patient has high blood pressure, heart disease, or glaucoma, inversion therapy should be avoided says the Mayo Clinic. This is because “your heartbeat slows and your blood pressure increases when you remain inverted for more than a couple of minutes,” noting that this position also increases pressure in the eyes.
Research confirms this, with one study in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy testing inversion traction on 18 “normal” subjects, all of whom were 22-31 years of age. After being suspended for seven minutes in an inversion device, they experienced an average blood pressure increase of 20 mm Hg during the entire time they were inverted.
Additionally, depending on the type of inversion equipment being used, some patients’ blood pressure remained elevated once they were returned to a standing position.
Offering patients spinal decompression safety advice
If you have a patient who has a spinal decompression inversion table, or is interested in purchasing one, you can help increase their safety by offering some “best practice” advice.
For example, if they are inverted and start to feel lightheaded or notice that their pain is increasing versus decreasing, it’s best if they immediately return to standing and discontinue use. And if the lightheadedness or pain continue to be an issue once they’ve done so, seeking immediate help is recommended to ensure that nothing potentially life threatening is going on.
Another piece of practical advice is to start slowly. In other words, don’t remain inverted for an extended period of time during the first use. Instead, start out by inverting only 30 seconds to a minute and see how they feel. If they notice positive effects (or an absence of negative effects), they can stay inverted longer the next time, increasing in small increments until they arrive at their desired inversion time.
Finally, pay attention to manufacturer recommendations when it comes to inversion times for that particular spinal decompression inversion table. While it may seem like “more is better,” exceeding these suggestions could actually have the opposite effect.