Spinal Decompression Services from Your Chiropractor in Loveland, CO

Whether pain strikes in the back, the leg, or the neck, it can make it impossible to perform normal activities.  Many patients who visit our Gateway Family Chiropractic office find their entire lives focused on getting relief from pain.  Fortunately, our chiropractor in Loveland, CO offers spinal decompression as a treatment option.  This is a natural therapy that avoids surgery or medication while providing an optimal environment for self-healing.

What Exactly is Spinal Decompression?

Healthcare providers use two types of spinal decompression, surgical and nonsurgical.  Chiropractic therapy to relieve pain utilizes only the nonsurgical type.

Treatment using nonsurgical spinal decompression involves using a kind of motorized traction to treat conditions such as:

  • Neck or back pain or sciatica
  • Herniated discs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Worn spinal joints
  • Diseased or injured nerve roots in the spine

Chiropractic spinal decompression uses a traction or motorized table to relieve pressure on the affected discs by moving the patient’s spine.  This in turn eliminates pain once pressure drops on nerves and other structures within the spine.  Stretching and periodically relaxing the spine changes both its force and position.  Our chiropractor accomplishes this by making changes on a computer to customize the therapy for each patient’s needs.

A treatment formulates negative pressure inside a disc.  This results in multiple benefits.  Spinal decompression pulls the contents of a bulging or a herniated disc back into the disc.  A secondary benefit is improving the efficiency of nutrient passage into the disc to create a better environment in which healing can occur.

Treatment at Gateway Family Chiropractic

The first step toward relief from persistent back, leg, or neck pain is an evaluation by our chiropractor.  Our doctor makes a diagnosis after a comprehensive physical exam, a discussion of health history, an evaluation of a Gateway Family Chiropractic patient’s symptoms, and any helpful diagnostic tests.

Once an individual has a diagnosis, we recommend a customized course of treatment to relieve pain without the use of surgery or medication.  Of the five Colorado chiropractors who have earned national certification in spinal decompression, two are part of our practice.

A spinal decompression session usually lasts no more than 45 minutes.  A course of treatment is typically between four and six weeks.

A patient remains fully clothed during a treatment session.  While the individual is lying on a table that is partially movable and motorized, we place a harness around his or her hips.  This harness fastens to a section of the table near the individual’s feet.  This portion of the table moves back and forth as our doctor at the computer transitions the patient between traction and relaxation.  Although the individual should experience a stretching sensation in the spine, a spinal decompression session should not cause pain.

Some patients are not good candidates for spinal decompression.  This therapy is not appropriate for individuals who are pregnant or who have a fracture, abdominal aortic aneurysm, tumor, spinal implants that are metal, or advanced osteoporosis.  Other contraindications include having a history of spinal fusion, failed back surgery, or lack of improvement in pain after more than one surgery.  Individuals who take blood thinning medication or have any of a variety of spinal conditions such as osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis are not good candidates.

How Does Decompression Therapy Work?


To understand how Spinal Decompression Therapy works, we need to understand a little about spinal anatomy. There are 24 vertebrates in the spine. There is one Intervertebral Discs between each pair of vertebrae, except for the first cervical segment, the atlas. Spinal Discs have several functions, but two stand out above the others.

  • They create space inside the Intervertebral Foramen (see picture):
  • They act as a shock absorber between the vertebrates

The vertebrae are held in place with ligaments, muscles / fascia, and tendons.

The Disc are made up of two parts:

The outer layer of the disc is called the Annulus Fibrosus and is made up of lots and lots of ligaments. If you were to look at a Spinal Disc under a microscope, you would notice that the Annular Ligaments wrap around and around and around the center of the disc. This is because The Annulus job is to hold The Nucleus (the jelly center) in place like the center of a golf ball.

The inner part, called the Nucleus Pulposus, is the jelly-like center of the disc. Because it is a thick jelly-like fluid, it has the ability to push outwards in all directions. Bend to one side, and the disc tends to push toward the other. Bend forward, and the nuclear jelly pushes toward the back of the disc.

Normal Intervertebral Discs or Injured Spinal Discs


Anything that encroaches on the Intervertebral Foramen (IVF) will compete with the nerve for space. As you can imagine, it is not a good thing for the nerve to be pressed or encroached upon. The nerve needs a certain amount of room as it comes through the IVF. When the nerve does not have the room it needs to stretch and move, it can become “pinched” or severely irritated. This is not a good thing either. How does this happen? Follow along as I walk you through the process.

As the Spinal Discs bear loads, the pressure pushes the nucleus outward in all directions. If there is a weak spot in the disc’s outer Annulus, the most inner layers (near the Nucleus) begin to tear. As they tear, the jelly center (The Nucleus) begins to push its way toward the outside. Bear in mind that disc herniations rarely happen in the front part of the disc. Because people tend to lean forward (not backward) and bend side to side, the pressure tends to push the nucleus toward the back of the disc. This is where discs tend to rupture — to the back and just lateral of the midline.

Full-blown Disc Herniations rarely happen all at once. Much more common is a Progressive Disc Injury. As the disc is continually stressed, the annulus continues to tear just a little bit more; allowing the nucleus “slip” a little bit more —- always creating a little bit bigger bulge and putting a little bit more pressure on the nerve. But then it heals some, and might even feel better for awhile. In other words, it’s not an “all-or-none” proposition. It is usually a process where a disc goes from normal to ruptured over time —- even though the terrible pain might have come on all at once.

And while you will hear terms bantered around such as “Slipped Disc,” “Herniated Disc,”Ruptured Disc,” etc, the question to ask is whether the disc is Contained or Non-Contained. As long as the Nucleus is contained within the Annulus, there is a fighting chance that you can avoid surgery. But if the Nucleus slips completely outside of the Annulus —- a “Non-Contained” lesion…… Unfortunately, you might have a surgical problem on your hands. Unless your neurosurgeon says otherwise (and maybe even against their wishes), you should consider Spinal Decompression Therapy! Unless you have a severe or rare problem such as a Cauda Equina Syndrome, Spinal Decompression Therapy might be worth a try.

Cardinal Signs of a Herniated Disc

There are three Cardinal Signs that I look for in determining if someone might have an Injured Disc. They are…..

  • ANTALGIA: An antalgic posture is leaning to one side or the other (or to the front). If the Nucleus Pulposus “slips” or herniates to the right, most of the time people will lean to the left and vise versa. This is an automatic reaction of the body as it tries to pull you off of, or away from the bulging nucleus. Often times you will notice that the belly button is pulled away from the body’s center line.
  • POSITIVE VALSALVA or DeJARINE SIGN: This is pain when you cough, sneeze, or strain on the stool. When you cough or sneeze, you develop a great deal of momentary internal pressure. Because force always takes the path of least resistance, the pressure released by a cough or sneeze pushes on the bulged portion of the disc. I frequently hear people tell me that if they know they are going to cough or sneeze, they hold themselves up in a counter or table so their legs do not collapse out from under them in sheer pain. Speaking of legs……
  • SCIATICA: The nerves from either side of your low back area grow together into one nerve —- the Sciatic Nerve. The Sciatic Nerve is not only the longest nerve in the body, it is the biggest as well. If you cause pressure on one of the nerves that makes up the Sciatic Nerve, you can end up in a world of hurt. This can be in the form of pain. But it can also be in the form of numbness, tingling, weakness, odd sensations (paresthesia), etc. Sometimes the pain will do odd things like start at the knee and go down, or skip certain areas. Sciatica can also mimic knee or hip problems as well.

Degenerative Intervertebral Discs


It is important to understand what this is: —- DJD (sometimes called DDD). DJD is a relatively new term and stands for Degenerative Joint Disease (DDD = Degenerative Disc Disease). Using the word “Disease” next to the words “Degenerative Disc” is largely a misnomer (not to mention, a brilliant marketing ploy). Just convince people they have a “disease” in their spine, scare the dickens out of them, and they will be ready to do whatever is suggested. Surgery anyone?

Although a diet of heavily processed foods, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, etc, can cause the degeneration of the Collagen-Based Connective Tissues (bones, ligaments, and discs); doctors never seem to mention this fact. However, there is another common cause of Spinal Degeneration besides those mentioned above. Degeneration of any joint is caused by loss of, or abnormal motion of that joint. If a joint is not moving properly, it is wearing out! But if it is wearing out, it is not moving properly. It’s a cycle that your doctor will likely blame on your age —- regardless of how old you are.

Spinal Discs have no blood supply. The only way that they can receive all the things normally carried by the blood — water, nutrients, and oxygen — is via joint motion. Joint Motion is also the way they must get waste products out of the disc. When we see degenerative changes throughout the spine, such as thin discs, bone spurs, and calcium deposits from the neck to the low back; we know that this person probably has age-related degenerative changes. However, when we see it confined to a very specific area of degenerative changes, we know that injury and subsequent abnormal motion is almost certainly the culprit.

When the back is repeatedly injured (sports, work, weight lifting, motorcycle racing, bull riding, too much sitting, etc), scar tissue builds up until it surrounds the two vertebrates and the disc between them. As you might have already guessed, the result of this fibrotic tissue is loss of joint motion. Loss of joint motion over time is the known cause of deterioration — including affected Intervertebral Discs.

What Does Spinal Degeneration Look Like?


Spinal Degeneration is characterized by three main findings on X-ray or MRI.

  • BONE SPURS: Bone Spurs are growths of bone that can eventually grow together. Bone Spurs are always seen with both spinal stenosis and degenerative discs. Most of the time, spinal pain is not caused by the spur; but the spur is the result of abnormal motion over time. If the bone spurs from the vertebrate above, grow until they actually grow together to the vertebrate below, they are referred to as syndesmophytes. This is not good because it means that a non-surgical spinal fusion is starting to to take place. One of the dirty little secrets of the medical profession is that rarely are spinal bone spurs or calcium deposits the villain that is actually causing your back or leg pain. They are simply a sign of abnormal joint motion over many years —- a sign that stands out like a sore thumb on x-ray.
  • CALCIUM DEPOSITS: Again, just like it sounds, calcium deposits are deposits of bone that are laid down by the body in places that they should not be. This something that is always seen in spinal stenosis and degenerative discs. It is the body’s way of trying to stabilize itself. You will sometimes hear of products that claim to “remove” bone spurs or calcium deposits. Because both calcium deposits and spurs are made up of bone that is bio-identical to the bone around them, nothing is going to remove bone spurs short of surgery. But remember, the spurs and calcium deposits are rarely the things causing your pain. A much bigger problem than calcium deposits is……..
  • THINNING DISCS: Discs thin because of abnormal (usually loss of) motion over time. Think about it for a moment. The goal of chiropractic adjustments is to restore both alignment and motion to the spinal vertebrates. Decompression Therapy helps with both of those things. Why is it so important to take care of your spine? If you wear out a knee or a hip, you simply have it replaced. Not optimal, but good enough to get by. Wear out your spine and you are stuck with it. Doctors used to do spinal surgeries for disc degeneration. However, they rarely do surgery for degenerative discs any more. Why not? They know it does not work. But what does work?

Spinal Decompression Therapy Works!

But How Does it Work?

Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy uses computerized traction patterns to gently stretch the spine and decompress the Intervertebral Discs. Spinal Decompression Therapy creates a negative pressure (“vacuum effect”) inside of the Spinal Disc. This negative pressure helps to “suck” the Nuclear jelly back inside the Annulus of the targeted vertebrate(s).

Once the Nucleus has been drawn inside the Annulus, the pressure begins to come off of the spinal nerves and spinal cord, and the Annular Ligaments that hold the Nucleus in place can begin to heal. Bear in mind that each individual treatment only pulls the disc apart a little bit. But over the course of a six week Spinal Decompression Therapy Protocol, the results can be amazing.

Who Benefits From Spinal Decompression Therapy?

There are several groups of Chronic or Acute Low Back Pain Sufferers who are likely candidates to be helped by Decompression Therapy. This group includes those diagnosed with

  • HERNIATED DISCS
  • DEGENERATIVE DISCS
  • SCIATICA (leg pain or numbness / tingling)
  • FAILED BACK SURGERY SYNDROME
  • SPINAL STENOSIS
  • FACET SYNDROME

People with certain conditions are not candidates for spinal decompression therapy. Some of the more common of these include:

  • Tumors
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurism
  • Fractures
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain conditions (diseases) that compromise the structural integrity of the spine and discs. These conditions are present in only a small percentage of the population.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Chiropractor in Loveland, CO

Is pain interfering with your normal daily activities?  Don’t continue to suffer when our chiropractor in Loveland, CO can provide relief using natural methods.  Our three chiropractors, Dr. David Hughes, Dr. Michael Hughes, and Dr. Shannon Bundy, provide services to families in the Loveland, Windsor, Greeley, Fort Collins, and Berthoud areas.  We offer expert, neurologically based care using a variety of chiropractic techniques to patients of all ages.  Call our Gateway Family Chiropractic office today at 970-669-7620 to schedule an appointment and take the first step on your path to wellness.