Flexion distraction therapy has been around for many years. At its premise it is very simple. It uses your legs and pelvis movements to help pull the lumbar vertebrae apart. It is basically like pulling your feet away from your body to pull the joints open. A flexion distraction table is designed for more control that simply pulling your legs, but think about it.
Joints injuries cause the muscles to spasm. Any muscle that crosses the affected joint or controls its movement will spasms to protect the joint. The body thinks that if the muscles spasms it will help prevent that joint from getting more injured. In some cases that is correct, in others that causes more pain to you.
Flexion distraction therapy starts by having you lay on your stomach, where gravity is not jamming the injured joints together. The bending of the table seperates the joints and opens up the facet joints, which will relieve some of the pain. The trick to the therapy is getting as much movement as possible without having the muscles freak out and spasm.
We always start out slow with light movements. If the muscles are relaxing we will apply more movement. People can feel the difference by the end of the treatment, and notice how much further the table is moving compared to the beginning.
A joint complex has many types of pain receptors in it. During an injury, most of them are sending pain signals to the brain. Flexion distraction treatments open up the joints and stop the pain receptors from firing. It is also excellent at relieving compression forces on lumbar discs.
Flexion distraction therapy is the basis for decompression therapy. Decompression is a traction (pulling the joints apart) with mechanized equipment. The joints really do not care who or how they are pulled apart. They just want to move.
We do use are decompression treatments often, for the right type of injuries. They are great for disc injuries and do provide relief with facet joint injuries. Sciatic pain is not a reason to perform it, especially for 20 visits. Not everybody needs 20 visits that the specialized decompression facilities tell you that you need. The main differences between decompression units are the colors, marketing material that accompanies them, and the cost. The joints do not care and there is not a type of decompression that is more effective than another.
The joints care about movement, increasing blood flow, relieving stress, and getting rid of the pain. Flexion distraction therapy is a great treatment and will continue to be effective for many years. Decompression therapy does have its place, but is not needed in every scenario.
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