Spinal Decompression for Neck Pain

In a paper published in 2007 the Parker Research Institute questioned the claims for efficacy made by manufacturers and advertisers of non-surgical spinal decompression (Daniel, 2007). Spinal Decompression for neck pain (spinal decompression for neck paintherapy devices), they said, could cost upwards of $100,000 and had only one scientifically rigorous research trial indicating its use in those with lower back pain. Out of the seven trials looking at non-surgical spinal decompression six found that it had no significant difference between this therapy and placebo. Despite this lack of evidence a poll found that 38% of chiropractors were using the technology in their treatments (MPAmedia, 2006). The cost of these units range from $9000 to over $100,000, which may induce the belief that these practitioners had a lot to recoup financially and therefore promotion of the therapy was likely to be pretty hard-nosed (Daniel, 2007). Since then even more models have become available although there is still scant evidence for their effectiveness, and a literature review revealed no studies conducted to investigate their use in the cervical spine. The majority of these traction devices remain functional only for the lumbar spine, doing little for neck pain or cervical spinal compression. This is not to say that non-surgical spinal decompression is not effective for the relief of neck pain, but the glaring lack of published evidence must surely make one suspicious.

This treatment has some advantages over other invasive forms of treatment as it has a significantly lower risk level. The efficacy of the treatment may be hard to assess, however, as there are usually several adjunct therapies used by the clinics providing non-surgical spinal decompression. Patients should be aware that several sessions, each purporting to provide a gradual improvement in the spine, are usually considered necessary. The cost in terms of both time and money can therefore be high for this kind of treatment, which effectively removes the possibility for some.

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