View Full Version : Spinal Decompression

Donald Lee
10-07-2008, 06:47 PM
I recently read Pavel's Relax Into Stretch in which he advocates hanging from a bar for spinal decompression. He states, "Sandwiched between the vertebrae, your spinal discs act as shock absorbers. They hold water like sponges to do their job. Unfortunately, never-relenting gravity keeps squeezing the moisture out of them. The discs eventually dry out, get thin and brittle. Your spine shrinks, stiffens up, and becomes more injury prone."

I'm sure many of you have heard of not working out your lower back in the morning due to overhydration of the discs. Pavel seems to state that hydration is good. What gives?

Steven Low
10-08-2008, 06:39 AM
It's a balance. You don't want them too saturated because it's easier to herniate, but too dry obviously the effects above. I wouldn't worry about it too much though as long as your diet is healthy and you're getting enough sleep and training well. Unless you have a history of spinal problems in your family...

And no, I've never heard of not working lower back in the morning due to overhydration.

Garrett Smith
10-08-2008, 07:14 AM
In the morning, "overhydrated disc" problems are avoided (according to McGill, I believe) by avoiding exercise for something like 30-60 minutes after rising.

Jarod Barker
10-09-2008, 08:02 PM
I actually talked about this with my doc maybe a month ago. He told me that the benefits of hanging upside down from a bar were minimal to none. He explained that you would need to hang upside down for such a long period of time that it would probably end up giving a headache at the very least and could even weaken your back by overstretching it.

On the other hand, I see a chiro who has an intersegmental traction table and he said that it actually pumps fluid back into the discs by working the vertebrae back and forth. He explains that the decompression is necessary to allow the spine to move properly. He also seconded my doc's opinion that hanging upside down was not a good way to decompress the spine.

So, there's two somewhat opposing perspectives.

Garrett Smith
10-10-2008, 07:52 AM
Ask them for some research comparing the two, if they are going to theorize on that end.

Traction at home means they don't make any $$.

Craig Snyder
10-10-2008, 02:28 PM
The thing about hanging yourself to try to get spinal traction is that you also get some amount of muscle co-contraction along with it as you either hold on to the bar or dangle from the bar from you legs. But you are still going to get some amount of distraction, although not near as much as you will on a commercial traction table as you lay on it relaxed.

As far as not working out in the AM due to hydrated disks, I think that is more of a problem for people is symtomatic disks that for people with healthy backs. I personally don't workout in the AM due to time trying to get my 3 boys ready and off and I am trying to get up and ready as well, but before life got complicated, I used to workout in the AM all the time and I know I felt much better during the day than I do now working out in the evenings.

If you are concerned...good mobility drills for the spine to 'flush out' the water in the disks prior to working out should suffice.


Donald Lee
10-10-2008, 06:05 PM
I never really worried about working out in the morning. A good warmup usually loosened up my back.

But I've been doing a lot of reading recently, and I came across the hydration thing I first heard a while back. This time it was from Eric Cressey, who seems to know his stuff, so I was curious, esp. in light of my recent discovery of spinal decompression.

Also, I hurt my back squatting a month ago and am still unable to do squats or deadlifts, so I don't want to do anything that'll risk a reinjury.

I think with all the heavy squatting and all the sitting we do, some spinal decompression could be good. I just hate how it interferes with my grip training though.