It is unfortunate that in chiropractic there is very little education about the true difference between spinal decompression and traction.
Doctors of chiropractic are regularly misrepresenting the truth, whether knowingly or not. They are also misleading the rest of the chiropractic community and their patients about the real difference between traction versus spinal decompression.
In medicine, the definition of spinal decompression is the relief of pressure upon a nerve, which is itself a surgical procedure. There is no medical definition of traction as it is simply an action, the application of a force for some purpose.
Non-surgical spinal decompression was originally developed in the 1980’s by the eminent Dr Allen Dyer, a medical doctor from Canada. Dr. Dyer is recognized as the inventor of spinal decompression and creator of an advanced new therapeutic modality, VaxD. He proved that his treatment provided a change in intra-discal pressure causing the “event” of spinal decompression.
This new therapy represented a genuine medical treatment modality which he called non-surgical spinal decompression.
It is important to know there have never been any credible studies on traction in spinal applications. Traction is not a medical procedure but rather an action, commonly known as isotonic traction. Isotonic traction is where the amount of force does not change.
In fact, an article published in the February 95 issue of Physical Therapy states “the proposed mechanisms of traction, however, have not been supported by enough sufficient research” and the AHCPR Publication No 95-0642 has the following summary of findings “Evidence does not demonstrate traction to be effective in the treatment of patients with acute low back problems”
The history of modern traction can be traced back to the 18th century with the work of J. Venel. He tried to apply the Hippocratic idea to modern surgery. Orthopedic specialists of that time were mostly preoccupied with using corsets but traction became popular when neurologists paid attention to a similar method of suspension.
In 1889 traction became popular in treating tabes dorsalis and other neurological diseases. Then a Russian neurologist proposed a combination of body suspension and cervical traction in 1893. Some years later Dr Gilles de la Tourette promoted the use of spinal traction in his neurologic clinic.
Unfortunately neurologists worked without the cooperation of orthopedic specialists. In the 20th century suspension was replaced by traction in neurology, and years later the field lost interest in traction but found new uses for it in traumatology: Isotonic traction for use in the treatment of fractures.
To be sure, traction originated hundreds of years ago and it started to be used more as a muscular or joint forward pull technique. Traction has never been a medical procedure. Medicine has never embraced traction.
Decompression differs in that it is an event for which the conditions can be created. In a conversation with Dr Dyer, I told him of my own personal conviction about the misrepresentation made by certain traction equipment manufactures and sellers of chiropractic tables as well as the lack of a more precise designation of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21.
This federal code is a regulatory guide mandated by the FDA for classifying medical and physio therapy devices. This specifically is a classification for all powered equipment, and does not distinguish between spinal decompression and traction, thus creating the opportunity for confusion and misrepresentations.
The lack of general knowledge by the average chiropractor about the differences between traction and decompression coupled with advertisement claims about traction devices being able to perform decompression has created intense market confusion.
Dr Dyer also noted that while there are similarities in the use of traction and spinal decompression, they are very different things. He compared the differences to those of an X-ray and a CT Scan. Both utilize film, both create an image, but X-ray and CT are quite different in use and application.
Traction and spinal decompression have exactly the same differences. i was fascinated to learn from him that when he originally took his decompression device to market, the classification from the FDA in CFR 21 was not even traction as it is today. His device was placed by the FDA in the same classification
Before buying any piece of equipment, ask to see their research studies. A medical doctor usually checks out the existence of white papers and clinical studies on any device, medicine or procedure before embracing it. Orthopedic equipment makers are required to perform medical studies in Universities and hospitals proving the claims made and that the outcomes expected are true and genuine.
Medical doctors require empirical evidence, whereas chiropractors are often swayed by advertising claims.
For its own credibility and professional status, chiropractors must stop purchasing equipment based of false information and demand outcomes and studies to protect their reputation. Chiropractors must seek out true information from their universities in order to protect the integrity of themselves and their profession.
I am the CEO of the most respected spinal orthopedic device manufacturer in the world. I was born overseas and came to USA at the young age of 20. I did not speak any English nor had much. In my opinion, chiropractors are some of the most knowledgeable physicians about musculature and in particular about back pain problems in the world
I It is my humble opinion that accepting information about any devices or so called technique without evidence is the key factor that must change if the chiropractic profession is ever to be seen in a more positive light by patients and other doctors.
As a successful businessman and leader of a segment of the medical & chiropractic market, I have and will continue to try and elevate the status of the chiropractic profession.
In our economic times, it is so important to rely on more than a fancy advertising campaign or promises of riches with this program or that technique. If you get involved with a group or place your reputation on the line, it should be an educated decision, don’t you think? Would you buy stock without researching the portfolio? No. Don’t be misled by salesmen skilled in the art of language. Do your research, demand higher quality, clinical results and better outcomes. Your profession will thank you.