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Frequently Asked Questions

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Why do we get back pain?

The most important thing to remember is that back pain is usually the result of a structural problem, and until the structure of your spine is addressed the pain will persist. Your spine is composed of several bones called vertebrae, and between each vertebrae is a fibrous structure with a soft inner core called the disc. The outer portion of the disc is called the annulus fibosis and the soft inner structure is called the nucleus pulposus. This structure provides flexibility and cushioning to the spine. It also creates space between the vertebrae so that the delicate spinal nerves can pass through to reach their target destination. If the discs become damaged in any way, a cycle of pain begins with the start of progressives problems.

How are discs damaged?

Overall, discs are very tough and resilient; however they are very susceptible to injury with repetitive activity and loading. For example, when you lift incorrectly or sit in one position for long periods of time, the fibers in the disc begin to weaken. An example of this is a common paper clip. If you bend the paper clip one time it doesn't break, but do it over and over again it just snaps in half. The fibers of the outer portion, the annulus fibrosis behave in much the same way. As the stresses on the disc are repeated (such as repetitive lifting or even sitting in one position for long periods of time) the fibers break down. This creates small cracks and fissures in the discs creating a pathway for the softer inner nucleus to slowly leak out. This is the beginning of a disc bulge or herniation.

What is a herniated or buldging disc?

The disc is made up of tough fibers called the annulus fibrosis and the inside has a soft, jelly-like substance; the nucleus. When your disc is injured or torn, the jelly-like substance in the inside can leak out. If it leaks out completely, it's called a herniated disc. If the outer material is not torn, discs can bulge without herniating. It's like if you step on a balloon and it doesn't pop. The balloon bulges out to one side or the other without the rubber breaking. When a disc bulges or herniates it is a major cause of back pain. It can also pinch the delicate nerves that pass by as they come out of the spine. That's what can cause radiating pain. In other words, pain, tingling and numbness going down your leg or arm and possibly into your toes or fingers! This radiating pain is often referred to as sciatica in the leg, or cervical radiculopathy in the arm. As the outer portion of the disc weakens, the pressure on the discs causes the inner nucleus to migrate through the small cracks and fissures that have been created. This pressure changes with various activities and an activity such as lifting incorrectly can dramatically increase the pressure inside the disc. When the pressure in the disc increases, the forces push the inner material outward. And if there are small cracks or tears in the outer fibers of the disc this material can literally "squeeze out". Many times people are surprised by the sudden onset of back pain and they can't recall what they did to hurt themselves. The reason for this is that only the outer 1/3 of the disc is pain sensitive.Therefore, you may not feel pain until one day you do an activity or make a movement that causes just enough increased pressure on the disc to push the material out to the pain sensitive areas of the disc, resulting in inflammation and pain. These episodes are usually the ones that send you to an emergency room or put you flat on your back. If the pressure is significant enough, the inner disc material can be pushed all the way out (a herniated disc) and cause pressure on the delicate spinal nerves leading to a severe burning pain or numbness in your legs or arms.

What is degenerative disc?

Degenerative Disc is characterized by tears around the outer surface of the disc. It is caused by the drying out of the disc. Age, poor diet, smoking and injury can cause discs to dry, crack and tear, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves. Disc Degeneration also brings the vertebrae closer together which results in a gradual wearing of the bone. From this wear, arthritic spurs, or osteophytes, may form and press on nerve roots causing pain or discomfort.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is defined as the sensation of pain, tingling and/or numbness in the back, buttocks and /or legs produced by an irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is made up of multiple nerves as the exit from the spinal cord and into the lower portion of the back. The sciatic nerve also extends through the buttocks and down the back of each leg to the foot and ankle. The most common causes of sciatica are herniated, bulging or degenerative discs, which cause pressure and irritation to the nerve. Other causes may include small bony growths on the spine (bone spurs) and the compression or pinching of the nerve by the muscles of the buttocks or leg. And in some cases, sciatica may be caused by tumors, pregnancy and spinal stenosis.

How and why does spinal decompression work?

Through the application of the DRX9000 patented decompression mechanism, the effects of disc compression and gravity are removed. Meaning all the pressure is taken off your spine and discs. Even better, and this is the key, it seems as though a negative pressure is created. This negative pressure actually sucks the herniated material back into the disc as well as improves disc nutrition- allowing the disc to re-hydrate and regenerate. In other words, heal. By naturally drawing the herniated material back into the disc, pinching of the nerves is relieved- and so is the crippling pain so many back pain patients endure. Bottom line: Spinal Decompression takes away the true cause of your pain symptoms instead of masking it with drugs or cutting the herniation out with surgery.

What is spinal decompression like?

After being fitted with an automatic harness system, you will lay down facing up. The DRX9000 will slowly bring your spine into tension. The comfortable harness helps stabilize both our hips and pelvis. The decompression systems' advanced computer controls automatically adjust and monitor the proper angle of distraction (the amount of tension that is gently applied), allowing us to target the specific discs that are causing your pain and symptoms. This distractive force utilizes a logarithmic curve to avoid the normal proprioceptor response (muscle spasms). In addition, the split table design decreases friction and allows gentle separation of the vertebra, minimizing the effect of gravity. Basically, you relax and the amazing DRX9000 computers create a decompressive effect on your back that helps herniated material return to its normal position and stops the pain. Our patients describe the treatment as a gentle, intermittent pulling of your back. And it can be so relaxing, that many patients actually fall asleep during treatment. 

How long are treatments and how many do you need?

Patients typically undergo 20 to 25 treatment sessions. This may seem like a lot, but they'll all be completed in about 6 to 8 weeks. (Just think how long you've been in pain - a lot longer than a month or two we'll bet.) Each treatment session lasts only about 30 minutes or so. This, of course, depends on your individual case and is determined by Dr.Howard. The really good news is that this is not something you have to continue to do for the rest of your life. This is because the process actually heals the disc and the studies show that patients remain pain-free long after they finish the program. 

Is spinal decompression covered by my insurance? 

Some insurance companies and plans may cover Decompression Therapy. But of course some don't. And some people don't have insurance to begin with. If you're not sure whether your insurance will cover one or all of our treatments, we'll be happy to check with your insurance company. But even if one or more of the therapies aren't covered, we'll do everything we can to make the treatment as financially painless as the treatment itself.

How do I get started?

Dr.Howard has helped thousands of suffering patients since 1998 and we love helping patients get better. We specialize in treating chronic cases that have not responded to "standard care" approaches. There is hope. Dr. Howard will leave no stone unturned to help you get better. We've helped thousands of people in southeastern Wisconsin... Will you be next?

"My sister recommended that I go see Dr. Howard. With his help, I'm able to sit without pain and I have stoppped using my walker! I liked the spinal decompression treatment, it felt good."

- L. Lambrecht, Milwaukee

$35 Spinal Decompression Evaluation

Don't wait and let your back and leg problems get worse. Call now or 'Request An Appointment' below to find out if you are a candidate for Spinal Decompression therapy.

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