What is Spinal Decompression? A Testimonial

Spinal Decompression Phoenix

First off, I want to say my life has been drastically improved with the treatment I have received from Dr. Boardman and decompression therapy.  When I arrived, I could barely walk and now I am going for a hike for the first time in 7 months.   If you don’t know what to think about decompression therapy combined with adjustments, stretching, and exercise to heal a severe disc injury, then read this.  I am going to descriptively tell my story no matter how long it is.  I want to do this because when I was facing this crippling issue, I scoured the internet for advice and came up short on how I should be feeling and if I was on the right track during my treatment.  Through everything, and all my skepticism, Dr. Boardman kept assuring me with every visit that I would get better.  I’m glad I stuck with it.

My injury started off as low back pain that kind of felt like a pulled muscle.  Since I am an avid rock climber and Spinal Decompression Phoenixmountaineer, I brushed it off as something I could work through, if I just babied it a bit.  After a few days off from climbing, I went at it again real hard.  During a move that required extreme compression of my spine, I felt a sharp pain in my low back that stopped me instantly.  I took a break and then continued to climb on what I thought was a non-significant injury, for another 30 minutes before quitting.  The pain was very intense and I had a lot of trouble sitting in my chair at work for extended periods of time.  I bought one of those cheap back braces from Walgreens, which helped me enough to get through the day along with a lot of Advil.  I added some low back stretches into my daily routine thinking this would help.  What I did not know is that I was stretching the wrong muscles and not the ones that were causing the imbalance in my low back.  I then thought if I just started practicing good posture things would improve.  Looking back on it, no pun intended, I was going way past neutral and was doing more harm than good.  I bought a ‘Teeter Hang-Ups’ inversion board and was hanging every free minute I had.  I was also laying on heating and ice pads and taking hot showers in the fetal position to relieve the pain.  I kept thinking it would subside in a few weeks.  This went on for at least six weeks before I had my blowout.  The pain during that phase was about a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10 and a 10 for me was when I was laying in a hospital bed about ready to die from a 40 foot ice climbing fall that nearly ended my life.  I had a broken pelvis, shattered shoulder, extreme compression of my thoracic area, which made breathing very painful, and lastly my skin on the left side of my body was separated from my muscle starting at my shoulder and continued to my knee that was filling with fluid, all from the impact.


Anyway, the blowout happened all in one day.  We just had our roof reshingled and the workers did not clean up the Hang ups Inversion Tableback yard because of our dogs.  We were having a small party that evening, so I decided that I could clean things up if I just took it easy on my back.  Things went fairly well but I did notice the pain was quite a bit worse after the yard work.  The party went fairly well until I decided to do a gainer into the swimming pool.  When I pulled myself from the water I kind of had the feeling that something wasn’t quite right but the beers I had consumed were masking what was around the corner.  When I woke the next morning and went to get out of bed I was in a different world of pain with my back.  It had easily elevated to a 9 out of 10 and I could barely walk.  The pain was like someone was pouring acid down my leg and it was relentless.  Nothing I did would relieve it.  I tried to walk down the hallway to get water and was using the walls for balance and had to sit down several times for that 30 foot journey.  I called into work and said I was not going to make it as I could not even take care of myself.  I am not a person that readily goes to a doctor but was begging my girlfriend to make me an appointment with anyone who could see me right away.  I could not sleep and was waking up with cold sweats all night.   There wasn’t a position that I could lay in that would relieve the pain.  It was radiating and pulsating down my entire leg and especially in my left gluteus.  Every time I tried to walk I was gripped with pain.  The only two positions that would somewhat moderate the pain was sitting straight up or lying down.  Anything else was excruciating where the pain would elevate until it was nearly unbearable.


After a couple days of this and not being able to make it to work, I finally saw a spinal specialist.  Getting to the doctor’s office was a chore in itself with me stopping to sit down almost every 30-40 feet to alleviate the pain.  She, my doctor, gave me a battery of tests and wrote a prescription for Vicodin, muscle relaxers, an x-ray, some steroids, and physical therapy. She said she would like to see me again in 4 weeks.  I couldn’t believe it.  I told her how serious this was and that I was no stranger to pain and there was something very wrong with my back.  She told me she wanted to see how I would respond to the steroids and physical therapy before doing anything else.  I asked her to at least send me for an MRI.  Again, she said she wanted to see my response to the steroids and physical therapy and if I wasn’t responding then she would give me some shots in my back then maybe an MRI after that.  At this point, I was completely losing my faith in the modern medical system because she was basically treating me as if my condition wasn’t all that bad.  However, in hind sight, she was just doing what the insurance companies want them to do, progress through the standard measures before prescribing expensive diagnoses or treatment.  Anyway, I left there a little distraught and decided I would give her the benefit of the doubt and see what would happen.  After all, she sees people like this all the time right?  Anyway, it was Thursday that week and I was scheduled to go to training in Texas for work the entire next week.  The pain killers helped immensely and for the first time in days I was able to sleep; however, the steroids were making me have cold sweats.  Then on Saturday, I woke up with my foot starting to go numb.  I can remember very distinctly getting out of bed and putting my feet down and thought that I had stepped on something with my left foot.  I looked down and nothing was there.  I then put my foot down again and realized the entire ball of my foot was going numb.  Needless to say, I was a bit freaked out.  I called my doctor’s emergency number and she asked me some questions and if I was losing strength yet.  I said not yet but then again, I could barely use my leg at all.  Again, she brushed it off as nothing that serious and told me I would be ok to travel to Texas, so I did.  My entire trip to Texas was filled with excruciating pain in my butt and leg that felt like someone was following me with a gallon of acid and just kept pouring it down the left side of my body.  I was popping Vicodin and muscle relaxers just to keep from being nauseous.  My nights consisted of very little sleep and cold sweats where I kept rolling around to find at least one position that would take the pain to a level I could tolerate.  At this point, I was thinking they shouldn’t let anyone be a spinal specialist without having some sort of back/disc injury because this was a living hell.  All the while, my foot was progressively getting more numb and now the outside of my lower leg was also getting numb.  Tingling, burning, extreme pressure like my toes were a balloon that was stretched to the limits and about to burst were some of the many feelings I had to live with 24/7.


My return from Texas was a relief as I took it upon myself to either get my doctor to do something or find someone that would just do the surgery.  I was out of options and couldn’t take it anymore.  My life was going downhill fast.  Call it a miracle or whatever you want, but that night my sister called me, I told her my issues and she said I should check out decompression therapy as it fixed some serious nerve issues in her back.  The second I got off the phone I talked to my girlfriend about this decompression therapy and we came to the conclusion that it was worth a shot even if it didn’t work.  She scheduled me an appointment and the next day I showed up at Dr Boardman’s office.  He took a look at my x-ray and asked me a battery of questions.  He also explained what decompression therapy was and that it would work if I was willing to put in the time and money.  Yes, the therapy is not cheap but it is worth every penny!  I went home and had to decide if it was worth it to do this as my insurance would not cover it.  I am an engineer by trade and what Dr. Boardman told me made sense from a structural and healing point of view.  What didn’t make sense was more Vicodin, muscle relaxers, shots in my back, and then surgery.  In the end, I decided I did not want surgery even though I would probably see immediate relief from my misery.  I booked the appointment and canceled my physical therapy, which I only went to one time.  My first appointment with Dr. Boardman was a full battery of tests where he said I most likely had a L5-S1 herniation or sequestration.  I then did my first decompression and ordered the decompression belt he recommended.  The first decompression didn’t do much to my back at all.  The most uncomfortable part of it was the strap that goes across one’s torso to hold you in place as the machine pulls on the lower back.  That day, my back felt a little fatigued but nothing really to note.  Anyway, I continued the treatments three to four times a week for at least 5 weeks.  I would say at that point I had gone about 17 times where every three times the pull tension is increased and it felt as if the discs were being separated a bit more each time this happens.  Well, at that point I had my midpoint re exam and I wasn’t that impressed.  My back was still messed up.  My foot and outside of my lower leg were still numb, my toes still felt like they were going to explode at times, the pain was consistently very high, and I still couldn’t walk very well.  My re exam showed that I made some progress but not all that much.  I couldn’t tell if the progress was related to time or the treatment.  One thing I did know is that I was slightly better than when I went in for the first time and that was what would keep me going.  I told myself before I started that if I had any improvement I would keep it up and see this thing through.  Dr. Boardman told me at that point he would be extending the total visits because of the nature of my recovery and the extent of my injury.  At this point he believed I had a disc sequestration and drawing the disc material into the disc was taking time.


After the midpoint the weight kept increasing and my progress was slow.  I was stretching two times daily, doing exercises, walking and taking supplements.  At about my 28th visit, things started to really change for me.  This was about 2 ½ – 3 months into the treatment.  I was doing nearly 70% of my body weight on the machine and really could feel the separation of my discs.  I felt like the machine was getting at my discs and not just stretching the muscles and connective fibers between the vertebrae.   I would get off the machine with my back feeling very fatigued and sore.  It was usually the opposite side from the injury that felt the most impacted.  I attributed this to the fact that this side was tight and required the most stretching to equalize what was going on.  This would last several hours and usually I wouldn’t feel much the next day.  Anyway, at this point I was able to start walking much longer distances.  However, the pain would be very intense at times but not the same feeling as before.  It would radiate and feel very deep but wasn’t enough to stop me.  My toes were still numb and after time I would feel the pressure building in them.  The pain would usually reduce in intensity after about 20 min of walking but would remain near a three to four.  A couple more weeks went by and I could feel the change daily.  The numbness in my toes and foot was reducing drastically.  I would push my foot onto the drain in my shower to stimulate the nerves in my foot as this was my gauge to feeling.  Also, my leg and foot was progressively starting to feel more like mine rather than some borrowed extremity that I was trying to control to walk.  My sense of awareness in my foot was returning and I could slowly start to tell how much strength I had and was regaining control again.  It was remarkable over this period of time.  When I woke each morning I knew I was getting better and the treatment was working.  I was now convinced I would come out of this injury not needing surgery.  I was so relieved and elated.


 The feeling has slowly returned in my leg and I am slowly regaining my atrophied muscle.  It was in a matter of about two weeks near the end when Dr. Boardman stretched me out that I no longer felt the nerve pain but what I felt was simply muscle stretch.  It was a very interesting feeling to be able to extend my leg out straight, reach down and grab my toes without that excruciating pain in my back and leg.   I was able to cough again, sneeze, and my favorite, go to the bathroom normally again.  The power and awareness is still returning and I feel that I am going to make a complete recovery.  I now only feel a deep soreness every once in awhile as I know my nerves are regenerating.  I can say with absolute certainty that this treatment is the reason I have recovered and I am very thankful for Dr. Boardman’s patience, understanding, knowledge, and care that he has shared with me over the past six months.  I can only hope that people will read this and seriously consider giving this therapy a try before resorting to surgery.

Sincerely, Joseph Kolnik

Update:  So, 4 months after treatment and I’ve continued with exercises I had been prescribed when I got done with my formal treatment and have continued to get stronger and stronger.  I’m actually amazed at how much of a recovery I have made and I can say that I wouldn’t have ever gotten back on the side of a mountain if it wasn’t for spinal decompression.  I don’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is considering having some treatment to fix a problem with their spine, I Googled some pictures of what spin surgery can look like and, WHOA, I’m glad I don’t have any of those scars and all the internal scar tissue to deal with.  I’m right back to some of the things I love most in the world, climbing, mountaineering and disc golf and I feel stronger and stronger every week.

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