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What is a Decompression Table?

A decompression table is a device used by chiropractors to provide nonsurgical neural decompression in the spine. However, to understand how decompression tables work, it may help to understand more about the spinal anatomy.

The spine consists of the spinal cord and nerve roots branching off the spinal cord. These important nerve superhighways are protected inside a column of stacked vertebrae which are cushioned by soft intervertebral discs. The spinal column also is comprised of facet joints, small muscles, and ligaments. Over time, the cartilaginous lining of the facet joints and the cartilaginous walls of intervertebral discs begin to deteriorate, which can lead to bulging discs, herniated discs, bone spurs, pinched nerves, radiculopathy, and more. It is not uncommon for these abnormalities in the spinal anatomy to compress nearby spinal nerves. A chiropractic decompression table, therefore, attempts to release nerve compression my manipulating the spinal anatomy back into place.

Types of Decompression Tables

Decompression tables are used in a variety of ways, including:

  • Inversion techniques – The patient is strapped to a tilted table that can be adjusted at various angles. Gravity stretches the spine and, ideally, pulls spinal abnormalities back into place.
  • Traction – The affected part is strapped to a decompression table to ensure immobilization. Bands, belts, or pulleys are then used to stretch the spine and open up the spaces between vertebrae to release neural pressure.
  • Mechanical decompression – New models of decompression tables use a mechanical vacuum effect, referred to as “intradiscal negative pressure,” to decompress spinal nerves.