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Not All Spinal Decompression Devices are Equal

VAX-D (Vertebral Axial Decompression)

What is VAX-D?

What is VAX-D?

VAX-D (Vertebral Axial Decompression) is a revolutionary, non-invasive conservative treatment for patients who suffer from chronic low back pain, as well as leg pain and numbness caused by herniated or degenerated discs and posterior facet syndrome. Patients who have had back surgery, yet continue to experience pain, may also be candidates for VAX-D.

VAX-D is the only medical device that delivers treatment through its patented logarithmic decompression curve. The treatment is designed to relieve pressure on structures that may be causing back pain usually associated with bulging or herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. VAX-D is safe, effective and does not involve the risks associated with surgery or injections also used to treat chronic back pain. Studies have proven that VAX-D reduces the pressure within the discs from a positive pressure to a negative pressure. (Average standing pressure on the discs is 200 mm. of mercury; With VAX-D, minus 150 mm. of mercury. This creates a vacuum-type effect on the disc and allows for a suctioning of the disc material back into its normal position.

Before VAX-D Treatment

Before VAX-D Treatment

After VAX-D Treatment

After VAX-D Treatment

While back pain is usually treated with a combination of therapies, including medication, bed rest, chiropractic care, physical therapy and exercise, many of these treatments only temporarily reduce symptoms. In contrast, VAX-D addresses the disc problem rather than just relieves the pain. A four-year study showed that the majority of patients were still pain-free four years after completing the VAX-D regimen and 91% had returned to normal activities.

How is VAX-D Performed?

Patient undergoing vax treatment

Patients are first fitted with a patented pelvic harness and then are placed on their stomachs on a VAX-D table and console (patients remain fully clothed during treatment). The VAX-D Therapeutic Table and Console technology applies and maintains a baseline tension of 20 to 24 pounds to the patient's pelvis throughout the treatment session (even when at rest). Distraction cycles then move from the 20 to 24 pound range up to a pre-determined tension based on the patient'scondition.

During treatment, patients utilize handgrips to extend the arms above the head to stabilize and restrain the upper body during lumbar distraction. The pneumatic-hydraulic cylinders of the Table are used to separate the lower table section from the upper section and apply tension to the patient's pelvis.

Many patients will notice a benefit early on in the treatment protocol, and as treatment progresses, they will experience a gradual reduction of symptoms.

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Length of Treatment

Patients receive an average of 20-30 treatments, one treatment a day for a minimum of five days per week. Each session lasts approximately 30-60 minutes. Some patients require physiotherapy as well following each VAX-D treatment. The number of treatments needed will vary by patient depending on how severe the condition and how the patient responds to treatment. Once the initial sessions are complete, patients continue to receive one session per week for about four weeks. In order to speed up the treatment process, some patients may be able to receive treatments twice a day, but they should be scheduled as far apart as possible. Patients who have tumors, bone fractures or osteoporosis are not candidates for this treatment.

VAX-D clinics have successfully operated for more than 20 years in the United States, as well as in Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Australia. More than 3,000 patients each day receive VAX-D therapy in the United States, with studies reporting levels of successful treatment in the range of 70%. Dr. Schwartz has been providing VAX-D since 1995 and is one of the most experienced providers in the country.

VAX-D is the only medical device that delivers treatment with the patented logarithmic decompression curve.

VAX-D can relieve the pain associated with herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, posterior facet syndrome and radicular (nerve root/leg) pain. Patients can avoid the costly and time-consuming merry-go-round of drugs and non-specific treatments like bed rest, physical therapy, injections, and others.

VAX-D therapy has been used by the best professional sports figures including those in the NBA, NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball, Olympic athletes and many others.

Treatable Conditions for VAX-D

  • Low back pain, unilateral or bilateral
  • Sciatica (leg and foot pain and numbness)
  • Post-surgical patients with failed back syndrome

Non-Treatable Conditions-Contraindications for VAX-D

  • Spinal tumors
  • Vertebral Fractures
  • Spondylolisthesis-grade 3, 4
  • Osteoporosis-severe
  • Severe medical conditions
  • Pregnancy
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Spinal Fusion with retained hardware
  • Spinal infections

It's understandable that you will have many questions about VAX-D. It's always wise to investigate all your options when it comes to you and your family's health.

Click on the Frequently Asked Questions tab. These are the most commonly asked question that we, as VAX-D professionals, hear from our patients. All of the answers are dealt with in depth on this website, and we have summarized them below for your convenience.

What is VAX-D and how does it work?

VAX-D is a patented medical technology that gently stretches the spine and decompresses discs. Pressures in the lower lumbar spine can be as high as +180 mm of mercury during many common daily activities. VAX-D Treatment is able to reduce the pressure in the lumbar spine down to levels of -180 mm of mercury. Dr. Dyer believes that this allows fluids and nutrients to re-enter the disc; reducing swelling and relieving the pressure on pinched nerves. In short, VAX-D breaks the cycle of pain caused by bulging and degenerated discs and helps the body heal itself.

Patients are treated fully clothed and are fitted with a harness that fits around their pelvis as they lie face down on a motorized Table. Dr. Schwartz or a therapist operates the Table from a computerized console. Each treatment takes about 45 minutes. Most patients find VAX-D to be comfortable and relief of pain can usually be noticed in the first few sessions.

Does VAX-D help a slipped disc?

A bulging or "herniated" disc is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "slipped" disc. VAX-D succeeds at treating bulging or herniated discs over 70% of the time.

If I've had back surgery, can I still have VAX-D?

Having back surgery does not prevent you from having VAX-D unless you have fixed surgical hardware used to fuse the spine. In fact, clinical studies show that VAX-D provides relief for patients who have had one or more back surgeries.

How many treatments will I need, and how quickly can I expect to get better?

The number of treatment sessions required depends upon the diagnosis and the overall severity of your condition. One treatment session is about 45 minutes long. The total number of treatments averages between 20 and 30 sessions. Some difficult cases may require some additional sessions. Relief from pain varies with each individual and their physiology. However, many patients will experience some pain relief within the first ten treatments.

Is VAX-D better than surgery?

In most cases, VAX-D is better than surgery. This is due to the fact that surgery physically alters the spine by removing all or part of the problematic disc. Although this can reduce the pressure on the nerve, and relieve the back pain, the surgery tends to place more stress on the healthy discs above and below, creating future problems in those areas. Complications from surgery can be severe and may result in debilitating conditions. Clinical Studies show that VAX-D is successful in about 7 out of 10 cases. A study performed in 2006 showed that surgery was no more effective than conservative treatment two years later. Add study to list.

Are there any reasons that I can't go on VAX-D?

There are a few individuals that cannot take advantage of this treatment. These people have conditions such as:

  • Tumors
  • Fractures
  • Advanced Osteoporosis
  • Pregnancy or certain conditions (diseases) that compromise the structural integrity of the spine and discs. These conditions are present in only a small percentage of the population.

How much does VAX-D cost, and will my health insurance, Auto Insurance or Workers' Compensation cover it?

VAX-D insurance coverage varies from state to state and from one insurance carrier to another. Generally, the cost of VAX-D is about 1/10th the cost of back surgery. Workers Compensation coverage varies by state.

If VAX-D works so well, how come I haven't I heard more about it?

VAX-D is a relatively new medical procedure in the United States. The treatment has worked for thousands of patients, and over 3000 patients per day, worldwide, are now being treated. The awareness of VAX-D is growing every day, as physicians and healthcare providers learn about VAX-D and the phenomenal results it has achieved in numerous clinical studies. As a result, VAX-D is now becoming the standard of care for chronic low back pain.

Why should I consider VAX-D Therapy?

VAX-D is the original patented, Non-Surgical Treatment for Low Back Pain and the only treatment that delivers VAX-D's patented decompression curve, resulting in a success rate of over 70%. VAX-D Therapy has been proven safe and effective in numerous clinical studies. Over 3000 patients a day are being treated with VAX-D Therapy.

How is VAX-D different from the "decompression therapy" I see advertised?

Many patients and physicians have asked if VAX-D Treatment is any different than "traction". In addition, the emergence and success of VAX-D Therapy has spawned a host of new medical devices (copycats) all claiming to be the same as VAX-D in their principles of operation and in their success rates. This has created a lot of confusion and questions about their similarities and effectiveness. Many doctors with simple traction devices are advertising them as "decompression". Although traction devices can stretch the lower back, they have not demonstrated the ability to decompress the lumbar discs and spinal nerves. It is mind boggling that these providers can make these claims that cannot be backed up through legitimate research that is published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

Well, what does traction actually do?

Traction does stretch the spine, but that is all it does. It has been around for over 50 years. If it worked, we wouldn't be discussing VAX-D. Traction tables have a small electric wench that attaches to the head of the table. A rope and pulley are then attached to either a cervical (neck) device or a lumbar (lower back) belt. Either constant (static) or intermittent traction modes can be chosen, but neither have been shown to reduce intradiscal pressure and decompress the discs and nerves. Remember VAX-D brings the pressure down to around minus 150 mm of mercury inside the disc.

What about the research I see for those other "decompression devices"?

Isn't it interesting that VAX-D Research is found on traction table websites? In other words they are touting the success of VAX-D and falsely giving the impression that traction is equal to VAX-D, but it certainly is not. This is similar to a car manufacturer advertising that their Model A car goes 200 miles per hour simply because Model X car goes that fast. They both have an engine and 4 tires so they must be identical.

Those sham treatments are making bogus claims and are falsely advertising that they "decompress" the lumbar spine and discs when they have no published clinical studies to substantiate their claims. Some have implied that NASA scientists discovered decompression, which is unfounded. These devices claim to utilize newer "state of the art technology" equivalent or superior to VAX-D. They claim to have equal or greater success rates than VAX-D (as high as 86%) with less complications, and at cheaper fees. Upon further investigation, you will find that these statements are just not true. In fact, virtually all of the VAX-D imitators are using linear traction technology. This means an electric motor and winch and cable mounted in a column or attached to the end of a table on a bracket. These devices are actually using traction technology that emerged prior to 1986 packaged into what seems like high tech computerized equipment. Several state licensing boards have taken action against providers of these imitation treatments. Call us for more details at 845-354-5545.

This is a very revealing excerpt from the Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance for a copycat product that must remain nameless. The manufacturer took a simple traction mechanism and placed it in a machine that appears high tech with bells and whistles:

"The _____ System incorporates various principles and working characteristics of the predicate device the Tru-Trac 401 Traction Device (1986). A traction unit is mounted onto a separate vertical structure at the foot of the bed. The incorporation of the traction device and flat surface bed, while giving a new overall appearance to the apparatus, has not impacted or changed the effectiveness of the device. The system is designed to provide static, intermittent and cycling distraction forces. But it does not decompress the spinal discs!

These manufacturers also make all kinds of statements in their promotional campaigns that are not based upon scientific research. The following claim from the manufacturer is an example:

"Research using the VAX-D machine shows a decrease in intradiscal pressure. Any traction protocol that uses the right amount of force and protocol will have the same positive results shown in the research. In other words, the decompression phenomenon is not unique to the VAX-D, but can be replicated on any traction machine."

This is like saying, because a "Formula 1" car can go 200 mph, therefore all cars can go 200 mph. They all claim to achieve decompression of intervertebral discs, however there are no published clinical studies using pressure monitors to support their claims. You will note that most of them quote VAX-D research in their promotional campaigns and websites. Many of their so-called"clinical studies" are not published in peer-reviewed medical journals. Unfortunately, linear traction has not been shown to lower intradiscal pressures, and has had a horrible track record with chronic low back pain, and is even contra-indicated for patients with herniated discs!

What is traction? (warning: this information is technical)

Traction has been in use for many years as an unsupervised physical therapy modality. A variety of devices have been utilized to apply traction forces in novel ways, such as electronic motors with winch and cable mounted on the table or in a separate column, bed traction with weights, split/ floating tables, tilt tables, gravity inversion devices etc.

According to the orthopedic text Adult Spine-Principles and Practice, at least seven randomized clinical trials of conventional traction have been published, with striking consistency in their results. None of those trials demonstrated any significant benefit for traction over the control treatment. The control treatments in these studies included sham traction, bed rest, heat and massage.

This data clearly supports the consensus view of the Quebec Task Force on Spinal Disorders which concluded that there was "no scientific evidence to support the use of spinal traction in the either the diagnosis or treatment of low back pain and discogenic disease."

Many years ago a pioneer in the back pain field named Cyriax hypothesized that distraction should be able to produce negative intradiscal pressure, which, if strong enough, could suck a herniated disc back in. Another researcher Kuslich stated that "we may find a really effective treatment for low back pain and sciatica when we learn how to decompress a nerve atraumatically. Anderson and Nachemson placed pressure transducers in four subjects in the lumbar spine during autotraction and manual traction procedures. They found that the intradiscal pressures went up dramatically in both cases. They concluded that at no time was negative intradiscal pressure observed, and therefore the disc could not be sucked back in as proposed by Cyriax.

They suggested that in order to produce a relative reduction in disc pressure, traction must be administered in such a way as to allow trunk muscle relaxation. Traction can be expected to increase intradiscal pressure and could therefore aggravate a protruded, herniated or extruded disc. Intuitively, lumbar decompression should be successful in alleviating many of the conditions which cause low back pain and associated radiculopathy. The successful application of lumbar distractive forces was limited by the design of mechanical devices.

VAX-D Therapy vs Traction Devices (technical)

Technological advances have now led to the development of equipment, the VAX-D Therapeutic Table and Console. The equipment allows controllable, effective axial distraction and decompressive tensions to be applied to the lumbar vertebral column. Distractive forces are applied and released in a progressive logarithmic fashion. This means that as the pressure is increased, the pressure on the spine is increased in an exponential fashion.

With conventional mechanical traction applied to the lumbar area, patients are treated in the supine (face up) position. With these devices the patient's upper body is secured and restrained with a chest harness (referred to as thoracic restraint). These tend to restrict your breathing, and they may slow the return of blood to the heart. More importantly, restraint of the upper body with chest harnesses rapidly causes trunk muscles and muscles that connect to the spine to guard against the pull, resist the tension, and then contract and resist. As demonstrated in the literature, this results in an increase in intradiscal pressure. This is actually "contraindicated" in the treatment of compressed discs and spinal structures.

Gravity lumbar traction utilizes the body's own weight as the source of traction force. Traction force is increased by increasing the angle of incline. There is a potential for damage to the nerves in the shoulder and under arm. The greatest difficulty has been chest pain caused by chest compression. Several investigators have documented the adverse respiratory effects with chest compression. Trunk muscle contraction also tends to increase intradiscal pressure.

VAX-D patients are placed in a prone position and utilizes handgrips which the patient grasps with arms extended above the head (like hanging from a bar) to stabilize and restrain the upper body during lumbar distraction. Thoracic restraints are not used and there is no risk of chest compression and circulatory or respiratory compromise. Although holding on to handgrips may create some transient discomfort in the shoulders for a few patients, the stress on the shoulder girdle attests to the fact that the tension applied to the pelvis is, in fact, transmitted along the linear axis of the spinal column rather than via muscular recruitment that tends to be elicited when chest harnesses are employed.

The principles utilized in the treatment are patented (an operational patent or procedure patent). It is noteworthy that VAX-D as been recognized by the US government through the granting of US Patent No. 6,039,737 entitled, "The Operation of a Vertebral Axial Decompression Table". This patent describes the complicated therapeutic equation and defines the logarithmic time/tension relationship. Traction devices are not capable of applying tension in a logarithmic time relationship.

Conventional traction devices apply traction forces by winding a cable around a pulley by an electric motor. The motor/device has several programmable modes to apply force in a linear fashion. Forces can be applied statically, stepwise (often called "dynamic" or "progressive") in a cyclic fashion or in a combination of these. The forces are applied to a harness fitted to the patient, not to the movable sections. The VAX-D Table does not utilize gradual step-wise traction. The winch and cable mechanism common to these traction devices does not incorporate VAX-D patented technology, yet many refer to VAX-D published research to support their advertising claims.

The VAX-D technology applies and maintains a baseline tension of 20-24 pounds (the pre-tension) to the patient's pelvis throughout the treatment session (even during the rest periods) and the distraction cycles then move from the pre-tension range up to a pre-selected therapeutic tension. The above parameters are absolutely critical to the success of the treatment.

The pneumatic-hydraulic drive mechanism is applied in both the distraction and retraction movements of the Table providing for a smooth, controlled operation and a gradual return of the patient to the starting position each time.

To achieve optimum control of the application of distractive tensions it was found essential to develop a harness that would attach directly to an electronic tensionometer that continuously monitors and provides feed-back of the tensions being applied to the spinal column. This harness is the subject of an individual patent issued in May of 1992 (Patent No. 5,115,802). The harness design also facilitates proper placement necessary to attain reproducible results.

There is now a body of research (see research in this website) that distinguishes and establishes VAX-D technology as the conservative treatment of choice for herniated and degenerative discs.

So What Should I Do Now?

Today's healthcare market is full of super-salesmen with new promotional campaigns that utilize scientific references. Unfortunately what "sells" is not the quality of the product, but the ability of the marketers to influence their audience. Even when they realize their treatment method is unproven, they attempt to minimize this by mentioning that it has been proven to the satisfaction of the FDA or one of the recognized medical societies.

The best way to avoid being taken in is to do your homework when considering new treatments, and this includes ours. Ask for copies of all of the published research on the treatment including clinical and patient-relevant outcomes. Make sure they substantiate their claims of therapeutic value. Unfortunately, in today's health care market separating the "hope" from the "hype" is no simple task.

Please click on research. You will find that no other treatment has the extensive and impressive research that VAX-D enjoys and you will see that everything we state is proven to be true. Once you realize this and that VAX-D is far superior then the other treatments, please call and we will be happy to explain what we can do to possibly help you.