Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy: does the scientific literature support efficacy claims made in the advertising media?
Parker Research Institute, Parker College of Chiropractic, Dallas Texas, USA
Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2007, 15:7 doi:10.1186/1746-1340-15-7Published: 18 May 2007
Traction therapy has been utilized in the treatment of low back pain for decades. The most recent incarnation of traction therapy is non-surgical spinal decompression therapy which can cost over $100,000. This form of therapy has been heavily marketed to manual therapy professions and subsequently to the consumer. The purpose of this paper is to initiate a debate pertaining to the relationship between marketing claims and the scientific literature on non-surgical spinal decompression.
Only one small randomized controlled trial and several lower level efficacy studies have been performed on spinal decompression therapy. In general the quality of these studies is questionable. Many of the studies were performed using the VAX-D® unit which places the patient in a prone position. Often companies utilize this research for their marketing although their units place the patient in the supine position.
Only limited evidence is available to warrant the routine use of non-surgical spinal decompression, particularly when many other well investigated, less expensive alternatives are available.