None of my blog articles have caught more attention or been the subject of more flack than when I tell the truth about non-surgical spinal decompression like the VAX-D, DRX-9000 and other pieces of equipment that are similar. You will recall that I am not against the use of these machines in general — only that the marketing of them is seriously misleading and the practitioners who use them frequently sell patients on long term, prepaid care plans that are highly unethical. The marketing of non-surgical spinal decompression also frequently falsely claims superiority over other techniques like flexion-distraction — such claims have not been proved.
As a result of some of the feedback I have received, I came across an article from the journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy titled “Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy: does the scientific literature support efficacy claims made in the advertising media?” published in May 2007.
What’s the bottom line? Does the decompression hype live up to the claims? That’s a big, giant, whopping “NOPE!”
A little more detail, you say? Okay. The article examines this “heavily marketed” version of traction therapy that “can cost over $100,000.” The authors extensively search all the major medical and scientific literature databases to find every scientific research article published on nonsurgical spinal decompression. It turns out, there was only 1 randomized controlled trial, 1 clinical trial, 1 case series and 7 other papers. Each was reviewed individually.
The authors concluded that “In general the quality of these studies is questionable.” And that there was “only limited evidence…available to warrant the routine use of non-surgical spinal decompression, particularly when many other well investigated, less expensive alternatives are available.”
Gee, that sounds just like what I told you a few months ago.
Also interesting was that this intervention has never been compared to exercise, spinal manipulation, standard medical care or other less expensive conservative treatment options which have an ample body of research demonstrating efficacy. How the practitioners can get away with claiming any superiority and not be restrained from doing so is a mystery to me.
I’m not saying that any chiropractor who has a spinal decompression unit is a crook. If he or she is charging you the same as a regular visit in order to use the experimental equipment, then that may be fine. If he or she tries to convince you to pay in advance, sign up for a dozen or two visits or tells you how fantastic the device is compared to other treatments, don’t walk….run away and find another chiropractor.