The Washington Times - October 3, 2008, 02:15PM

We have been following the development of new technologies that will help relieve back pain without surgery.

One of the most promising is a technique called spinal decompression. Two pilot studies have shown that spinal decompression treatment has an amazingly beneficial effect on lower back pain, and that it seems to benefit the morphology of the spine by increasing disc height.

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During spinal decompression therapy, a patient is placed on a table that gently stretches a patient’s spine. The degree and angle of the stretching movement is precisely controlled by a computer. The data placed in the computer is determined by the practioner after analyzing the patient’s MRI or X-rays.

One study, authored by Dr. John Leslie of the Mayo Clinic and others, found that clinical application of such a system led to an 88.9 percent reduction in pain scores over the course of six weeks, as well as improvement in Oswestry disability scores and a drop in consumption of pain medications.

In the other study, CT scans of the lumbar spine were taken of patients before and after treatment with spinal decompression. They showed possible beneficial anatomical changes associated with the treatment. Dr. Christian Apfel, associate professor of anesthesiology and perioperative care at the University of California at San Francisco, who is the lead author, and his colleagues say, “A significant reduction in chronic LBP [lower back pain] after non-invasive spinal decompression correlated with an increase in disc height.”

While more studies need to be done, including double-blind controls, the initial results of spinal-decompression therapy is extremely promising.

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