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An Overview of Spinal Decompression and Its Benefits During our youth, our intervertebral discs packed full of water, meaning we are virtually floating along on a bed of liquid through the day. When we get older, our discs start to lose fluid, usually leading to height loss and more jarring movements. We also tend to more jarringly Our movements also become less more jarring, and alas! The loss of height is due to the decreased concentrations of proteoglycans, or proteins in the discs that draw in water through the process of osmosis. Continual spinal loading considerably reduces proteoglycan synthesis rates, and we typically load our spines by sitting for hours and hours. Sitting not just pushes fluid out of the discs, but also makes it difficult to pull fresh fluid in. Because of this, the lumbar area is where our discs get the thinnest as we age. 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 ability of the therapy to bring back height loss from disc degeneration is still to be proven.
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Day to day, about 20% of our discal fluid is because of two key factors – the weighing down effect of gravity, and spinal compression from muscular activity. Small studies done on football players, whose heights were measured before and after a game, indicated that height loss due to spinal decompression can be recouped. 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. Within the first two hours of sitting, which compresses our discs, about 10% of discal fluid will be squeezed out; with lumbar decompression, the fluid can be helped 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. In addition, it was found that we lose more discal fluid when our backs are bent (kyphotic) position than when they’re arched (lordotic). Although spinal decompression (traction) is helpful to acute and chronic conditions, the effects come 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 disc walls’ incredibly strong fibrous mesh, enabling the discs to accept a lot more fluid, and precludes disc degeneration. Finally, for the most important part, remember that discs are water-filled sacks. As you pull them apart, nutrient-rich fluid comes in, meaning disc degeneration is not only avoided, but repair processes are enhanced as well.