- 1. Hanging
- 2. Overhead Stretches
- 3. Stretch With a Ball
- 4. Pelvic Tilts
- 5. Use a Foam Roller
- 6. Nonsurgical Decompression Therapy
- 7. Improve Your Posture
- 8. Focus on Your Breathing
- 9. Practice Meditation
- 10. Try Yoga
- 11. Massage Therapy
- 12. Quit Smoking
- 13. Exercise in Water
- 14. Consider Your Diet
- 15. Lose Weight
- 16. Stay Hydrated
- 17. Sleep
- 18. Stop Looking Down at Your Phone
- 19. Try Inversion Therapy
- 20. Visit a Chiropractor
- 21. Acupuncture
- 22. Spinal Decompression Surgery
An eye-watering 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some stage in life, so you won’t be surprised to learn it’s one of the world’s biggest health problems.
Whether you’re pain-free or not, understanding the different ways to practice spinal decompression is going to be a game-changer for your overall physical and mental health.
We’ve done our research so you can learn how to decompress your spine, especially important if you have any neck, upper back or low back issues:
3. Stretch With a Ball
An exercise ball is probably one of the most underrated ways to stretch your low back.
It’s an important piece of equipment as it can also be used to strengthen the core, improve stability, tone arms and help repair all the damage done by sitting down at a desk all day.
Longterm—as little as 3 to 6 months—prolonged posturing and inflexibility causes the muscles around the spine to get tight and the spine itself becomes compressed and stiff between each segment.
As we age, compression can worsen and disc health can become compromised, setting us up for future injury.
So what can you do? Prioritize the low back now for the future. Weis strongly believes that exercise balls are a great way to focus on joint mobility and muscle flexibility.
The best thing about an exercise ball is that you’re in charge of adapting how deep or light your stretch is, and air-filled balls are way more comfortable than other harder surfaces so you can endure it for longer.
5. Use a Foam Roller
The foam roller is something of a ‘frenemy’.
It’s your ideal self-administering deep tissue massage that releases muscle knots and relieves inflammation, but you can sometimes feel sore while pressure is being applied if you’re in pain to begin with.
Remember though, you’re in control of the pressure and foam rollers do wonders for spinal decompression.
Watch these straightforward exercises you can do at home with your foam roller, demonstrated by Dr Rowe from the SpineCare Decompression and Chiropractic Center.
Regular use can expand your range of motion, increase flexibility, as well as boost your circulation.
According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30 minutes of foam rolling leads to increased blood flow.
7. Improve Your Posture
Many of us are guilty of spending our days sitting at a desk and then evenings snuggled up on the couch.
However the ideal position for us is standing straight up or laying down as we’re applying the least pressure on the discs between our vertebrae. If you’re not standing already, you’re definitely going to want to stand up for this bit of news from the Spine Institute of North America:
When we sit and our backs consequently curve, we’re adding close to 50% pressure on these discs compared to standing.
If we then carry a bit of extra weight, that pressure can increase to nearly 300% with poor posture!
So what is good posture?
Cleveland Clinic explains it involves training the body to stand, walk, sit and lie so we place the least amount of strain on muscles and ligaments while either moving or sitting still.
9. Practice Meditation
Breathing is a crucial part of meditation, and mindful meditation has been proven by studies to fight chronic back pain.
A randomized clinical trial, involving 342 adults with chronic low back pain, split participants into three groups.
One continued with their usual care, another took part in MBSR (training in mindfulness meditation and yoga) and the third group underwent CBT (cognitive behavioral training).
They practiced across eight weeks, with 2 hour sessions per week. The MBSR and CBT groups witnessed a greater improvement in their back pain.
11. Massage Therapy
The trials and tribulations of life can take a toll on our bodies and leave muscles feeling tight.
A massage is a powerful way to manipulate soft tissues and muscles in the body, making us feel relaxed, and improving our overall wellbeing and physical health.
If you’re experiencing lower back pain, according to Spine Health, most muscle spasms only require four massages over approximately six weeks.
However, if you have severe pain, speak to a medical professional before trying this form of therapy.
Wondering where to begin as there are lots of different types of massage for you to choose from?
All the science points to the Thai massage when it comes to spinal decompression treatment.
It’s an effective way to reduce back pain, relieve joint pain and increase flexibility and range of motion.
Unlike Western massages, you lay fully clothed on the ground while a practitioner uses a mix of techniques to ease tension and get the blood circulation going.
Researchers in Thailand studied the effects of Thai massage on 120 people with non-specific low back pain.
Half of them were treated with Thai massage, and the other half with what is referred to as conservative management techniques (joint mobilization, hot packs and manual stretching).
Treated bi-weekly for 4 weeks, both groups experienced significant pain relief.
There are also other studies that reveal that Thai massage cuts down back pain linked to trigger points in the upper back.
13. Exercise in Water
Mixing up your exercise program by shifting from land to water will produce excellent health benefits.
When it’s come to low back and neck pain, it’s been proven to provide relief.
For those suffering with conditions such as osteoarthritis, advanced osteoporosis, muscle strains or tears (who may struggle to exercise on hard ground or even padded surfaces) this form of exercise can be ideal.
But why is exercising in water so effective?
Well, water has three properties and the combination makes it powerful:
Buoyancy – it counteracts gravity and helps to support our weight. This is excellent for the development of better balance and strength.
Viscosity – water provides gentle friction so there’s resistance and this allows for strengthening and conditioning.
Hydrostatic pressure – when you’re exercising in water, you’re improving lung function, as well as boosting muscle blood flow.
15. Lose Weight
According to experts, you can get rid of partial or complete back pain through weight loss.
Dr. Andre Panagos, physiatrist and director of Spine and Sports Medicine in New York, notes:
Every single patient in my clinic who loses a significant amount of weight finds their pain to be vastly improved.
If you’re heavier than your ideal weight, muscles have to work that little bit harder so you can complete everyday tasks.
The extra load that the spine has to grapple with may result in the misalignment of the vertebrae and can escalate to painful joint strain.
We need to be careful here because although medical research indicates there’s a strong relationship between back pain and obesity, there isn’t yet the evidence that obesity is a cause of spine issues.
However, there is a compelling study that highlights a link between high-intensity back pain and/or disability with increased obesity in a large sample of men.
The best way to decompress your spine in bed is to have a good mattress, pillow and to consider the position you sleep in.
Chiropractors recommend a mattress that is medium-firm because sleeping on a hard surface will lengthen your spine.
As mentioned by Spine Health, your choice of pillow is more important than you think when it comes to easing or avoiding back or neck pain.
Don’t forget, being in pain will have a detrimental effect on your shut-eye and you definitely don’t want to be joining the 35% of Americans that don’t get the recommended 7 hours sleep each night.
When it comes to choosing a pillow, you have plenty of options:
You may want a special orthopedic one, also called a cervical pillow, that offers extra neck support.
They may seem uncomfortable at first, but they help keep the neck in alignment with the spine and will be better in the long-term.
Buckwheat pillows have been around for centuries, and are natural and hypoallergenic, giving much needed support throughout the night.
It’s also down to personal preference as you may like memory foam, down or polyester. The best sleeping positions are:
Side sleepers: Lay on your side, flex your hips 30 degrees, bend your knees 30 degrees, flex to 30 degrees and place your chosen pillow under your neck. You could also put a thin pillow between your knees to keep your hips in line.
Back sleepers: Bend your knees slightly, place a pillow beneath them at a 30-degree angle to support your lower back and decompress the spine. Your pillow should support your neck and keep your head in a neutral stance.
18. Stop Looking Down at Your Phone
We’re all guilty when it comes to spending too much time on our phones, but you probably didn’t realize how much of a pain in the neck (literally!) it can be.
On average, research indicates that Americans spend an alarming five to six hours on their smartphones each day, and that isn’t even accounting for work-related use.
No wonder many of us experience ‘text neck’, you know that tightness and light pangs of pain you feel in your neck and upper back.
According to Dr Karena Wu, physical therapist and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York City and Mumbai:
Looking down promotes a forward head posture. For every inch forward you hold your head, the weight carried down through the spine increases by 10 pounds.
Just think about the massive strain on the back of the neck, as the muscles try to support the head which weighs roughly 8-10 pounds, in the far forward position.
And that’s not the end of it.
Wu explains that ‘text neck’ also:
…creates tightening on the front of the neck and chest which then leads to discomfort or dysfunction into the shoulders and middle of the back.
We know it’s hard to stop looking down at your phone, but there are exercises that can counteract the effects of ‘text neck’ and prevent worse injuries down the line.
Chronic pain influencer, Doctor Jo, guides you through simple neck stretches and posture adjustments in the below video:
20. Visit a Chiropractor
Chiropractic treatment is extremely popular with more than 35 million Americans treated annually.
When you consider the health advantages, it’s no wonder that its immensely popular.
Many choose a chiropractor for spinal manipulation if they’re suffering from conditions such as sciatica, neck pain, headaches, as well as low back pain.
A 2018 study involving 750 active U.S army personnel with low back pain discovered that those who received chiropractic care, in addition to normal care, experienced better short-term improvements in low back pain intensity and pain-related disability than those who only received medical care.
It’s relatively safe when performed by a licensed and trained practitioner and the side effects are mild: muscle soreness, stiffness or a temporary increase in pain.
However, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, some serious complications, deaths and delays in diagnosis of serious illnesses have been linked to spinal manipulation, for both adults and children, but are very rare.
22. Spinal Decompression Surgery
After you’ve exhausted all other options, you may want to consider, or be recommended, spinal decompression surgery.
The UK healthcare system, the National Health Service (NHS), believes that it can be effective for people with severe pain caused by compressed nerves.
For example, people who find walking a struggle prior to surgery are often able to walk for longer and with greater ease.
A longitudinal study at Charing Cross Hospital in the UK, focused on the outcome of spinal decompression surgery fives years on. It unearthed that the early benefits in the period after the operation, may reduce over time.
(Just to note – these findings should be caveated with the fact that they only represent 66% of participants involved in the research because not everyone submitted data.)
There are common risks for this type of surgery such as: infection, blood clots, bleeding, allergic
reaction to anesthesia and nerve or tissue damage.
Some believe that there is the risk that it may not improve back pain and that it’s hard work out who will benefit most.
Struggling with back pain and looking for a solution?
Trying an at-home back massager could be one option. We’ve listed 15 of the best tools on the market right here!