Usually spinal decompression is done in two ways—microdecompression (which is a surgical method called a discectomy) and the more popular open decompression, a non-surgical method that is preferred because it is non-invasive. There are several treatments that take place over a prescribed period for the latter; the former usually requires one to two surgeries at the absolute minimum (although it can be as many as much as 20 treatments or more for the entire therapy—in other words, the same “several” treatments needed for open decompression).
Microdecompression is considerably more expensive than open decompression—the charges, even with insurance, can run in excess of $15K-$30K. For some patients, the surgery may be unavoidable if all other treatments fail. Open decompression can be perhaps as low as 10% of that price.
Microdecompression involves a series of minimally invasive surgeries; in each, a portion of the herniated disc center is removed, either with surgical instruments or, in a procedure that has just recently gained popularity, with lasers.
The latter is pronouncedly more effective, and results in a shorter recovery time between procedures. The cost of spinal decompression for each treatment may run from $1000 to $3000 depending upon the equipment used, the time needed for the procedure, and the location of the herniated disc, which facilitates ease in surgery. Surgical treatments for the entire procedure may require as few as two to three visits, or there may be many more. The entire therapy could run between $20K and $35K and a great deal of the spinal decompression cost, as mentioned, might be assumed by the patient.
Open decompression, on the other hand, done without needles or surgical instruments, without even the need to remove clothing, is between $100 and $200 per visit (the lowest price available is $75, the highest $300, so the patient is advised to shop around). This procedure is done via traction therapy, moving the patient through several positions and exercises that include distraction and relaxation, positioning and strengthening of the spinal ligaments, and realignment of the disc itself.
These exercises create an inverted, or negative, pressure on the spinal disc that is misaligned, and literally “invites” it, by creating space within the spine, to slide back into place. The series of exercises is usually performed on a surgical table machine such as the Triton DTS; although patients find the procedure grueling, a significant number (over 70%) report relief from back pain over time.
As you might expect, therapy is not complete after one visit. Approximately 20-25 visits are necessary to complete spinal decompression therapy treatment, although at far less cost than surgical techniques. This means the complete cost of spinal decompression in the case of this procedure could be as little as $2000-$4000. Depending on the patient’s medical insurance plan, he/she could find that the entire procedure is covered. Some medical plans consider this procedure investigational, however, and do not offer coverage.
Recently, a spinal surgical table, created in collaboration with chiropractic and decompression experts, became available, a single unit that replaces the machines used in non-surgical spinal decompression. The DRX9000 claims to treat sciatica, numbness/tingling in toes, feet and lower extremities, and to “localize” and align the areas of the cervical and lumbar discs. There was a reported 89% satisfaction rate in the “back to normal” feeling the DRX9000 created in patients, along with patient/physician testimonials, and the visits to use the surgical table were no more frequent than for the regimen of open decompression.
However, there were suspect elements to the claims of near-90% back to normal recovery for patients that previously had experienced little success with open decompression techniques.
It was further learned that many of the “testimonials” from doctors recommending the machine were actually press releases issued by the physicians who were promoting the product. In short, the creator/entrepreneurs were creating the testimonials. The DRX9000 is presently under investigation, as treatments with this particular procedure could run the patient as much as $5000-$6000(the lowest quoted price is $2500) for results that are not by any means well-documented or extensively researched.
The procedure is further suspect in that patients who undertake it sign a contractual obligation. Unlike patients who undergo open decompression or surgical techniques, and can opt out of the treatments at any time, the DRX9000 program asks for a guarantee of payment (usually by credit card) and further demands that the patient undergo the entire regimen, or lose their payment.
Spinal decompression is a process that treats disc pain in the lower and upper back, which occasionally occurs as well in the neck. Individuals with lower back disc pain such as this, frequently experience many of the symptoms of pinched nerves—tingling, numbness (often to parts of the body that are at opposing poles, such as fingers and toes), headaches and body aches. In extreme cases, the lower or upper body may have lessened function, making everyday tasks such as reaching or walking difficult. The process of decompression is either surgical (micro) or non-surgical (open).
A 70% patient satisfaction rate is a fairly good indicator that spinal decompression does indeed work well even thought the cost of spinal decompression may be high. Most patients report immediate pain relief, while others report that spinal decompression therapy actually relieved their back pain after failed spinal surgery produced no significant results. One should use caution in investigating therapies (such as the DRX) that claim nine out of ten cures, as these sort of non-surgical successes are exceptionally rare; the majority of patients for open decompression, however, report lasting relief from their symptoms.
How much does spinal decompression cost when it comes to spinal decompression machines? Besides the DRX9000 spinal decompression table, the most frequently used and recommended machine for open decompression is the Triton DTS. This is a patient-friendly device that is primarily a mechanical traction platform, which includes a specially designed spine-cushioning pad system. The patient lies on the machine, is either strapped in or holds onto special handles (the latter is obviously a less disconcerting method) and lies still, doing minimal exercises while the machinery below and around him mimics a hands-on massaging and stretching therapy.
The DTS treatments, while not under the contractual obligations of a machine such as the DTX9000, require about the same number (20 or more) to achieve any lasting success in lower back pain relief. At $200 per treatment, the near-$4000 estimated price is fairly close to that of the DTX. However, patients who need regular and lasting treatments can, with their medical plan’s assistance, purchase the DTS for home use; it is priced a bit over $12K, sold by Medex Supply (Sears outlets carry them).