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“Bulging or herniated disc” is one of those medical terms that strikes fear into the heart of most patients.  Instantly, their minds race to steroid shots in the back and spinal fusion surgeries. Fortunately, most disc related pain syndromes do not require surgical intervention and can often be reversed and improved with non-invasive spinal decompression therapy as it painlessly pulls the disc bulge/herniation away from the nerve roots.

Decompression therapy is able to reverse the disc’s internal pressure gradient, so more water is able to flow back into the disc providing more internal stability (imagine pumping more air into a tire).  This rapid reversal of the disc’s pressure gradient and even help reduce the disc bulge/herniation itself.

Research Studies on Disc Decompression Therapy – Pain Reduction

  • 86% Success Rate in Study of 219 Patients Treated with Disc Decompression

“In this study, only patients diagnosed with herniated and degenerative discs with at least a 4-week onset were eligible.  Each patient’s diagnosis was confirmed by MRI findings.  All selected patients reported 3 to 5 on the pain scale [Oswestry Pain Scale, ranging from on pain (0) to severe pain (5)] with radiating neuritis into the lower extremities…

According to the self-rated Oswestry Pain Scale, treatment was successful in 86% of the 219 patients included in this study.  Treatment success was defined by a reduction in pain to 0 or 1 on the pain scale. After 90 days, only five patients (2%) were found to have relapsed from the initial treatment program.

Ninety-two percent of patients with abnormal physical findings [gait, reflexes, sensory perception, straight leg raise test, spinal range of motion] improved post-treatment. Ninety days later only 3% of these patients had abnormal findings.

Glonis, Thomas A and Groteke, Eric “Spinal Decompression: The outcome of a clinical study evaluating the effect of nonsurgical intervention on symptoms of spine patients with herniated and degenerative disc disease is presented.”


  • 86% Rate of Improvement in Patients with Ruptured Intervertebral Discs After Disc Decompression Therapy

Thirty-nine patients were enrolled in this study.  There were 27 men and 12 women, ranging in age from 31 to 63.  Twenty-three had ruptured discs diagnosed by MRI.  Of these, all but four had significant sciatic radiation, with mild to moderate L5 or S1 hyperaigesic.  All had symptoms of less than one year.  The facet arthrosis patients also underwent MRI evaluations to rule-out ruptured discs or other major pathologies.  They had experienced back pain from one to 20 years.  Six had mild to moderate sciatic pain with significant limitations of mobility.

•          Eighty-six percent of ruptured intervertebral disc (RID) patients achieved “good” (50-89% improvement) to “excellent” (90-100% improvement) results with decompression.  Sciatica and back pain were relieved.

•          Of the facet arthrosis patients, 75% obtained, “good” to “excellent” results with decompression.

Shealy, Norman C and Borgmeyer, Vera, “Decompression, Reduction, and Stabilization of the Lumbar Spine: A Cost-Effective Treatment for Lumbosacral Pain.”  American Journal of Pain Management, Vol. 7 No. 2 April 1997


  • MRI Evidence of Nonsurgical, Mechanical Reduction, Rehydration, and Repair of the Herniated Lumbar Disc

“Twenty patients with lumbar radiculopathy documented on clinical examination and electromyography were treated on the DRS decompression table system, a mechanical split-table distraction device…..Radiculopathy, confirmed by EMG, was from disc herniation in 14 patients and from minor disc protrusion plus foraminal stenosis, facet arthropathy and lateral spinal stenosis in six.  Significant herniations treated were 4-10 mm in size and all were subligamentous.  Six herniations were at L5/S1, six at L4/5, and one each at L3/4 and L2/3.  And MRI on either high or midfield units were performed within four weeks before and after treatment.  Clinical status was assessed before, during, and after treatment using standards analog pain scale measurements of lumbar mobility and full neurologic exam results.”

“Serial MRI imaging of 20 patients treated with the decompression table shows in our study over 90% reduction of subligamentous nucleus herniation in 10 of 14.  Some rehydration occurs detected by T2 and proton density signal increase.  Torn annulus repair is seen in all.  Transligamentous ruptures show lesser repair.  Facet arthrosis can be shown to improve chiefly by pain relief. Virtually all subjects have sufficient relief of pain to return to work.”

“The follow up of the 17 patients who showed clinical improvement in the present series at one year revealed only one to have a recurrence.  It could be argued that reversing leakage through fissures and tears in the annulus allows the most direct repair of the herniated lumbar disc by promoting fibroblast repair of the inner and outer annulus layers and improved retention of nutrition.”

Eyerman, Edward L “MRI Evidence of Nonsurgical, Mechanical Reduction, Rehydration and Repair of the Herniated Lumbar Disc,” 21st Annual meeting of the American Society of Neuroimaging 1998 Paper Presentation.

Spinal fusion surgery should only ever be a last resort!  Our doctor and staff at the Lancaster Spinal Health Center has a long history of successfully treating disc related pain and providing a permanent solutions to prevent chronic problems in the future.

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