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Vax-D Alternative to Back Surgery

Saturday, October 25, 2003 | 980 | 0 | min read

Vertebral Axial Decompression -- also known as VAX-D -- is a non-surgical alternative to end back pain. This procedure alleviates most of the underlying problems that cause back pain by relieving pressure on vital structures of the spine, including discs and spinal nerves. VAX-D is FDA approved, has a nationwide success rate of over 70%, and has been endorsed by the Assistant Surgeon General of United States, Dr. Robert Channey.

The lumbar spine - or lower back area - is the most troublesome of the entire spine because it receives the most stress and strain. More spinal problems occur in the lumbar region than anywhere else. For people under age 45, back pain is the major cause of disability and lost time from work, and back pain is the second most common ailment seen by general practitioners each year.

The spine is made up of a series of bones called vertebrae. Each vertebrae is cushioned by a soft, shock-absorbing disc. This disc has two major parts: The outer fibrous layer and an inner jelly like tissue that allows the disc to be compressed. Together they allow the vertebra to move back and forth while protecting the open spaces in the spine through which the nerves run out to the entire body. As we age, the outer fibrous portion of the disc begins to get thinner and "dry out" making it more prone to injury. Additionally, the inner jelly like substance is composed of some 80% water and begins to harden and become irritated. Even in young adults, lifting and twisting in just the wrong way can tear or rupture the outer fibrous wall of the disc.

When the outer wall of the disc is injured, the jelly like substance in the middle leaks out. This is called a herniation. Sometimes this is incorrectly referred to as a "slipped disc." Since the disc is attached to the vertebrae it cannot physically slip out of place. As the fluid in the disc's nucleus leaks out it puts pressure on the nerve. This pressure is what causes the pain in your back - or, in the case of sciatica, the pain or numbness that runs down your leg. Additionally, the chemical composition of this fluid is an irritant to the nerve.

When physical therapy and other treatments fail to relieve pain from lower back injuries many doctors suggest surgery though most people do not want to undergo surgery.

All surgeries involve risk. In addition to hospitalization and recovery time, there is the risk of general anesthesia, risk of infection, scarring (and associated complications), risk of general loss of mobility, and the risk of failed (or only partially successful) surgery. Even successful surgery often only offers temporary relief. When a disc is surgically altered it can put pressure on both the disc above it and the disc below it which can lead to future back problems and additional surgeries.

Unlike surgery, VAX-D is totally non-invasive. Also, VAX-D either will or will not heal the patient. There are no shades of grey. The procedure requires 20 to 30 treatments, and each treatment lasts approximately 45 minutes. All the patient has to do is lie comfortably on the VAX-D table, fitted with an adjustable nylon harness while holding onto handgrips. The table slowly divides into two sections under computer controlled, carefully monitored conditions. This gradually decompresses the spine.

As a patient lies on the table the pressure within the discs between the vertebra is measured at 75mmHg - that's 75 millimeters of mercury positive. VAX-D therapy reduces intradiscal pressure to between minus 150 and minus 200mmHg - or up to 200 millimeters of mercury negative. This reduction in pressure creates a vacuum like state within the disc that helps retract the leaking nucleus back into the middle of the disc. The vacuum like state also pulls in fluids from the surrounding tissues and re-hydrates the entire disc. Additionally, this process speeds up the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the disc so that it gets what it needs to heal itself.

An important point to emphasize is that VAX-D therapy is not traction. The VAX-D table is an FDA approved Class II medical device. Traction can cause the muscles in the back to contract which actually puts more pressure on the disc. Also, a traction device can only be calibrated to a particular setting at any one time.

The VAX-D table and its computer work with each individual patient, adjusting back tension that in turn adjusts intradiscal pressure moment by moment. The computer adjusts the tension in imperceptibly small amounts so that the muscles in the lower back do not spasm or contract during treatment that allows decompression to take place.

While the national success rate of VAX-D is over 70%, some clinics, such as the Spine Pain Institute boast a much higher success rate, as high as 92%. The difference between some clinics is that the protocol is physician directed (Medical Doctor), distinguished from "doctor directed" (PhD). Successful clinics screen patients meeting certain treatment protocol - in other words if the patient doesn't meet certain standards that have been identified in successful rehabilitation then they are declined treatment so as not to waste carrier dollars and patient time.

Contributed by Pejman Bady, D.O., Medical Director of the Spine Pain Institute. They can be reached at (888) 480-BACK (2225).

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