Back Pain: Non-Surgical Relief

Back Pain: Non-Surgical Relief

by Patricia Nugent

Dr. Michael Kellis of Precision Orthopaedic Specialties first found out about non-surgical spinal decompression at a national sports medicine conference in San Diego about 15 years ago.

“Designed by NASA engineers, the goal of decompression is to reduce pressure and pain in the spine’s disks by stretching it,” says Dr. Kellis, who has treated about 25,000 patients over the years from age 16 to 85. “It eliminates back pain in nearly 80 percent of those who undergo it, working especially well in cases of herniated disks and compressive issues, such as sciatica.”

But it wasn’t until 2008—when the doctor became a patient himself with an excruciatingly painful herniated disk—that he truly appreciated the pain relief decompression can offer.
“I was scheduled for surgery, then decided to put it off and see what this therapy could do for me,” he said. “It worked. After 10 to 15 treatments, I was feeling no discomfort.”

During a treatment, patients lay on their backs fully clothed. While arms are stabilized at their sides, an upper and lower body harness is put on. Each treatment takes about 30 minutes and is painless. In fact, patients often fall asleep during the treatment.

“After 15-20 treatments, the patient is usually fine,” he says. “For follow-up, they typically come back for a treatment a few times a year.” He cautions that although the treatment may not work for everyone, the therapy will not worsen the patient’s condition.

Dr. Kellis notes that though this might look like old-fashioned traction, it’s actually quite high-tech. “Traction pulls the body linearly and is only effective about 30 percent of the time,” he explains. “Spinal decompression pulls through an algorithm that’s prescribed by a computer to retract and release. In fact, we can target a certain disk level, like an L4 for example, to treat it.”

The therapy also helps promote healing of inflamed and degenerated disks, as it improves the movement of water, oxygen and nutrient-rich fluids into the disks.
“In other words, it helps the body do what it was designed to do, heal itself,” he says.

Dr. Michael Kellis is a board-certified family medicine and sports medicine physician. Non-surgical spinal decompression is usually covered by insurance as part of a comprehensive physical therapy back program. Precision Orthopaedic Specialties has locations in Auburn, Beachwood, Middlefield and the main office is in Chardon at 150 Seventh Avenue, Suite 200. Call 440-285-4999 or visit for more information.