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Thread: Harrington Rod + Spinal Decompression Therapy = Safe?

  1. #1
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    May 2009
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    Harrington Rod + Spinal Decompression Therapy = Safe?

    Hello! I have a Harrington Rod that was placed in 1984 when I was 12. I am 37 now and have had bouts of severe back pain, but this latest period has been excruciating and has lasted almost a year. I visited the doctor who took over my surgeon's practice after retirement and was told the the disc below the Harrington rod is worn out (L4-L5 disc). The doctor prescribed physical therapy, but I decided to try my chiropractor friend who says she can help me.

    I had my first treatment visit with her yesterday (after a consultation visit last week and xrays) and she adjusted me and did spinal decompression therapy. I can't believe how much better I feel after just one visit! I can stand up straight for the first time in a loooong time. I am scheduled for decompression therapy 3 times a week for 8 weeks, but I am worried about whether it is safe with a Harrington rod. Websites that discuss spinal decompression therapy all say that people with hardware in their backs should NOT have decompression therapy. It's so gentle, though, and the segment of my spine between the Harrington Rod attachment points must be fused completely by now. I just can't believe this stuff can be any more dangerous than stretching on my own. Ugh. It figures that when I've finally found something that gives me some relief, questions arise as to whether it's safe. I suppose I SHOULD ask the scoliosis surgeon, but I'm afraid he might be biased and forbid chiropractic care completely. Have any of you had spinal decompression therapy? Any and all feedback would be most appreciated!

    Thanks so much--
    Jenny

    P.S. The machine that my chiropractor uses is a Triton DTS, if that makes any difference.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
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    Hi Jenny,

    I too have a Harrington rod (from surgery at 14 in 1990) and also have had a recent bout with excruciating back pain. Mine turned out to be a herniated disc at L5/S1, but my fusion ends at L2, so our situations are a little different. Did the doctor describe what is meant by a "worn out" disc? That is something that always worries me a little - the extra stress on the discs below the fusion.

    I won't be a lot of help in terms of the chiropractor's procedure - I've always been told that I should not be going to a chiropractor with my fusion - but I can tell you PT has helped me a lot, particularly improving my core strength. My pain has decreased a lot and I pretty much have my life back. I am very curious about your procedure though and will be checking this thread to see what others have to say and how it helps you, if you continue with it. Hope things continue to improve for you!

    - Sarah
    - 39 years old
    - At age 14, curve progressed from 45 degrees to 62 degrees in two months.
    - Surgery in 1990 at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) with Dr. Letts. Fused T5 to L2. Corrected to about 30 degrees.
    - Harrington rod
    - Herniated disc - L5/S1 - January 2008. Summer 2009 - close to making a full recovery.
    - New mommy as of February 2011
    - Second child - September 2013
    - Staying relatively painfree through physio exercises!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    2

    Thanks, Sarah!

    I think by "worn out", my MD and chiro mean that the disc is deteriorated/thinned out from the stress it bears from the portion of my spine clamped to the Harrington Rod.

    I just don't know who to trust with my back - I was terrified of trying chiropractic for a long, long time, but now that I see what it is, it's so gentle and non-threatening and it seems effective. I suppose there's no reason why I can't do physical therapy at the same time, other than the time commitment. (I have a 2 year-old and a very demanding full-time job aside from that.)

    The cost of spinal decompression therapy is yet another issue - it's $100 per session, not covered by insurance, and I'm supposed to go for 24 sessions in 8 weeks' time. (!) My insurance does cover PT and chiropractic adjustment, however.

    Here's a video about spinal decompression. It's EXTREMELY "infomercial-ly," which is a huge turn-off for me, but luckily, I tried it before seeing the video and felt for myself how much better it made me feel.

    http://pointers.audiovideoweb.com/st...in15021/021408 Uploads/dts_in-line_chiropractic.wmv/play.asx

    I'm just a little lost and will appeciate hearing from others too.

    Jenny

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jenesp View Post
    I think by "worn out", my MD and chiro mean that the disc is deteriorated/thinned out from the stress it bears from the portion of my spine clamped to the Harrington Rod.

    I just don't know who to trust with my back - I was terrified of trying chiropractic for a long, long time, but now that I see what it is, it's so gentle and non-threatening and it seems effective. I suppose there's no reason why I can't do physical therapy at the same time, other than the time commitment. (I have a 2 year-old and a very demanding full-time job aside from that.)

    The cost of spinal decompression therapy is yet another issue - it's $100 per session, not covered by insurance, and I'm supposed to go for 24 sessions in 8 weeks' time. (!) My insurance does cover PT and chiropractic adjustment, however.

    Here's a video about spinal decompression. It's EXTREMELY "infomercial-ly," which is a huge turn-off for me, but luckily, I tried it before seeing the video and felt for myself how much better it made me feel.

    http://pointers.audiovideoweb.com/st...in15021/021408 Uploads/dts_in-line_chiropractic.wmv/play.asx

    I'm just a little lost and will appeciate hearing from others too.

    Jenny
    Hi Jenny...

    I don't have any opinion on whether the procedures are safe. It seems to me that the worst case scenario is that it would make the disc worse rather than better (and cost you a lot of $).

    Since the series is going to cost you $2,400, I wonder if you might be able to get a guarantee (in writing), that the effects of the treatment will be semi-permanent.

    Whether or not you get permanent relief, you can find a large community of people with Harrington rods, here:

    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Flatback_Revised/

    I hope you'll keep us updated on your progress.

    Regards,
    Linda

  5. #5
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    Mar 2008
    Location
    New Bern, NC
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    Hi Jenny,
    I went for spinal decompression treatments before I had my fusion surgery because I was desperate and the Neurosurgeon I had been referred to said that he wouldn't operate on me unless I was in a wheel chair. I had 4 degenerated discs. Your Chiro is much cheaper that those in the Boston area, maybe because she is a friend. I spent over $5,200 for 20 treatments. It did seem gentle and after the treatments, he had me do plenty of stretching and strengthening exercises for maintainance. The effects of the decompression treatments were temporary for me, 6 months or so, since as I said, the discs were degenerated. If the discs are bulging or ruptured, I think the decompression might be of value. However, if the disc is dried out and worn out, there is no way you can regenerate that disc. If I were you, knowing what I know now, I would get myself to a SRS Ortho Dr. who specializes in revisions before I would waste any more money on Chiro treatments which would at best give only temporary relief. I can't speak to the safety of the treatments with previous implants.
    Sally
    Diagnosed with severe lumbar scoliosis at age 65.
    Posterior Fusion L2-S1 on 12/4/2007. age 67
    Anterior Fusion L3-L4,L4-L5,L5-S1 on 12/19/2007
    Additional bone removed to decompress right side of L3-L4 & L4-L5 on 4/19/2010
    New England Baptist Hospital, Boston, MA
    Dr. Frank F. Rands735.photobucket.com/albums/ww360/butterflyfive/

    "In God We Trust" Happy moments, praise God. Difficult moments, seek God. Quiet moments, worship God. Painful moments, trust God. Every moment, thank God.

  6. #6
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    Northern California
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    Quote Originally Posted by loves to skate View Post
    Hi Jenny,
    I went for spinal decompression treatments before I had my fusion surgery because I was desperate and the Neurosurgeon I had been referred to said that he wouldn't operate on me unless I was in a wheel chair. I had 4 degenerated discs. Your Chiro is much cheaper that those in the Boston area, maybe because she is a friend. I spent over $5,200 for 20 treatments. It did seem gentle and after the treatments, he had me do plenty of stretching and strengthening exercises for maintainance. The effects of the decompression treatments were temporary for me, 6 months or so, since as I said, the discs were degenerated. If the discs are bulging or ruptured, I think the decompression might be of value. However, if the disc is dried out and worn out, there is no way you can regenerate that disc. If I were you, knowing what I know now, I would get myself to a SRS Ortho Dr. who specializes in revisions before I would waste any more money on Chiro treatments which would at best give only temporary relief. I can't speak to the safety of the treatments with previous implants.
    Sally
    Jenny...

    If Sally is correct (and I think she is), an MRI will determine if the discs are degenerated as opposed to injured. It might be a good idea to have that done before you make the huge investment.

    Regards,
    Linda

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2020
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    3
    Quote Originally Posted by jenesp View Post
    Hello! I have a Harrington Rod that was placed in 1984 when I was 12. I am 37 now and have had bouts of severe back pain, but this latest period has been excruciating and has lasted almost a year. I visited the doctor who took over my surgeon's practice after retirement and was told the the disc below the Harrington rod is worn out (L4-L5 disc). The doctor prescribed physical therapy, but I decided to try my chiropractor friend who says she can help me.

    I had my first treatment visit with her yesterday (after a consultation visit last week and xrays) and she adjusted me and did spinal decompression therapy. I can't believe how much better I feel after just one visit! I can stand up straight for the first time in a loooong time. I am scheduled for decompression therapy 3 times a week for 8 weeks, but I am worried about whether it is safe with a Harrington rod. Websites that discuss spinal decompression therapy all say that people with hardware in their backs should NOT have decompression therapy. It's so gentle, though, and the segment of my spine between the Harrington Rod attachment points must be fused completely by now. I just can't believe this stuff can be any more dangerous than stretching on my own. Ugh. It figures that when I've finally found something that gives me some relief, questions arise as to whether it's safe. I suppose I SHOULD ask the scoliosis surgeon, but I'm afraid he might be biased and forbid chiropractic care completely. Have any of you had spinal decompression therapy? Any and all feedback would be most appreciated!

    Thanks so much--
    Jenny

    P.S. The machine that my chiropractor uses is a Triton DTS, if that makes any difference.

    Dear Jenny,

    I saw your post the night prior my first docomprrssion and was desparate to hear your experience after the first session you mentioned but it took a while to register and be able to post.

    I also had Harrington rod fussion (T4-L2) when I was 12 and am 37 now ( only a bit younger as I see your post is from 2009). I have 3 lumbar protrusions both lateral and medial L3-S1 since last September when my brother's daughter hang around my neck suddenly (20 kg at least). The tingling feeling and pain radiate down my both legs and sometimes I have strange feeling in my anogenital area. I tried all kinds of electro therapy allowed for the ones with steal implants but with very little effect. 9 monts since then, I still cannot sit longer than 5 minutes/day and walk more the 1 km. As a last resort, only spinal decompression and spa mud treatment are left. I went to see the doctor who did my surgery and he approved and even encouraged me as he believes that 25-year old fussion is solid enough that nothing bad can happen. He is retired but has his private practice with a phisiatar who also worked 20 years at the clinic where I had my surgery. I weigh 62 kg and they set Triton at 20 kg first couple of sessions and it was 22 yesterday (8th session). They are super carefull because of the rod I believe as they usually set the machine to half of someone's weight.

    I still hope my fussion, rod and hooks are where they were. I feel lighter after the session but still do not feel constant progress when it comes to my legs tingling and pain i.e.total lack of it which was my goal. They both say that decompression should release the pressure off my nerve roots made by discs so I await the results. Can you please share what happened after your post?

    Thank you so much!

    Ana
    Last edited by ana.serbia; 06-23-2020 at 02:06 AM. Reason: gramatic mistake

  8. #8
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    Northern California
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    Quote Originally Posted by ana.serbia View Post
    Dear Jenny,

    I saw your post the night prior my first docomprrssion and was desparate to hear your experience after the first session you mentioned but it took a while to register and be able to post.

    I also had Harrington rod fussion (T4-L2) when I was 12 and am 37 now ( only a bit younger as I see your post is from 2009). I have 3 lumbar protrusions both lateral and medial L3-S1 since last September when my brother's daughter hang around my neck suddenly (20 kg at least). The tingling feeling and pain radiate down my both legs and sometimes I have strange feeling in my anogenital area. I tried all kinds of electro therapy allowed for the ones with steal implants but with very little effect. 9 monts since then, I still cannot sit longer than 5 minutes/day and walk more the 1 km. As a last resort, only spinal decompression and spa mud treatment are left. I went to see the doctor who did my surgery and he approved and even encouraged me as he believes that 25-year old fussion is solid enough that nothing bad can happen. He is retired but has his private practice with a phisiatar who also worked 20 years at the clinic where I had my surgery. I weigh 62 kg and they set Triton at 20 kg first couple of sessions and it was 22 yesterday (8th session). They are super carefull because of the rod I believe as they usually set the machine to half of someone's weight.

    I still hope my fussion, rod and hooks are where they were. I feel lighter after the session but still do not feel constant progress when it comes to my legs tingling and pain i.e.total lack of it which was my goal. They both say that decompression should release the pressure off my nerve roots made by discs so I await the results. Can you please share what happened after your post?

    Thank you so much!

    Ana
    Hi Ana...

    I'm surprised at your surgeon's opinion. Your fusion stops at L2, and you have herniated discs at L3-4, L4-5, & L5-S1. Your pain could potentially be from the herniated discs. You might want to check out a dermatome chart to see what levels match your pain areas.

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/429530883184120782/
    Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Twain
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
    Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation

  9. #9
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    Jun 2020
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    3
    Quote Originally Posted by LindaRacine View Post
    Hi Ana...

    I'm surprised at your surgeon's opinion. Your fusion stops at L2, and you have herniated discs at L3-4, L4-5, & L5-S1. Your pain could potentially be from the herniated discs. You might want to check out a dermatome chart to see what levels match your pain areas.

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/429530883184120782/
    Hi Linda,

    Thank you for your note. The pain does come from herniated discs and dermatomes where I feel the pain match with CT. This is the reason the surgeon suggested spinal decompression - to try to release the pressure off my L3-S1 nerve roots. My initial fear was that during decompression something could happen to my fussion or metal implants but since he approved, I felt more confident.
    I will get back with results if any.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ana.serbia View Post
    Hi Linda,

    Thank you for your note. The pain does come from herniated discs and dermatomes where I feel the pain match with CT. This is the reason the surgeon suggested spinal decompression - to try to release the pressure off my L3-S1 nerve roots. My initial fear was that during decompression something could happen to my fussion or metal implants but since he approved, I felt more confident.
    I will get back with results if any.
    If your fusion is solid (and there's no reason to believe it's not), there's nothing anyone can do to cause harm to the fusion or implants.

    --Linda
    Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Twain
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
    Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation

  11. #11
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    Jun 2020
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    Quote Originally Posted by LindaRacine View Post
    If your fusion is solid (and there's no reason to believe it's not), there's nothing anyone can do to cause harm to the fusion or implants.

    --Linda
    Thank you Linda, I hope so.

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