Spinal Decompression: How It Works and Its Benefits
In our youth, the discs between our vertebrae are full of water, which means we are practically floating along through the day on a pillow of fluid. As we get older, our discs become less hydrated, often leading to a loss of height and shakier movements. We also tend to more jarringly Our movements also become less more jarring, and alas!
The height loss is brought about by decreasing amounts of proteoglycans – proteins that attract water via osmosis – in the discs.
Constant spinal loading significantly drives down proteoglycans’ synthesis rates, and we generally load our spines by too much sitting. Sitting also expels fluid from the discs, and, at the same time, makes it harder to get fresh fluid in. This is why discs in the lumbar area become the thinnest as age increases. Diminished concentrations of proteoglycans is among the first indications of disc degeneration. It can lead to disc thinning at a single spinal level over time.
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One of the benefits offered by daily decompression is disrupting the negative impact of spinal loading. However, the therapy’s ability to revive height lost from disc degeneration has yet to be established.
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Everyday, we lose about 20% of discal fluid because of two major factors – gravity’s weighing down effect, and spine compression due to muscular activity. There have been minor studies done on footballers who were measured before and after a game; results showed that height loss can be restored through spinal decompression.
When we sit for a long time, more fluid is lost from our lumbar spines because this portion of the body has higher intra-discal pressure. When we sit for two hours straight – a position in which our discs are compressed – around 10% of discal fluid is squeezed out; lumbar decompression solves the problem by helping put the fluid back in.
According to research, fluid lost due to excessive spinal loading (for instance, lifting a ten-kilo barbell) can be offset by lying on supine position with the legs bent at the knees. Also, it was found that kyphosis (bent back) leads to more fluid loss than lordosis (arched back).
While spinal decompression (traction) helps both acute and chronic conditions, it does so in different ways. In acute pain, traction provides relief by stretching the muscles out of over-protective mode, and that helps the fluid collection around the joints to leak. In chronic conditions, traction stretches the super strong and fibrous disc walls, allowing the discs to attract more fluid, and prevents disc degeneration.
Lastly, note that discs are sacks full of water. As you pull them apart, nutrient-rich fluid comes in, meaning disc degeneration is not only avoided, but repair processes are enhanced as well.
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