Spinal Decompression

Posted in: Lower Back Pain, Research | 1

Here is a news segment on CBC’s marketplace investigating the claims made by the Low Back Clinic about their spinal decompression machines.  The Low Back Clinic claims that they have an 80% success rate in treating low back pain.  The investigation makes the following allegations:

  • All claims are based on a study funded by the manufacturer of the product.
  • That study is not statistically significant or of sufficient quality to make those claims.
  • The Low Back Clinic, in their advertising,  is taking advantage of people that are vulnerable

You can see for yourself.  Here is a link to the video:


My thoughts on the “investigation”:

  • It was fair journalism, but more than anything, it was great entertainment.  The piece targets the inner skeptic in all of us:  The desire to point a finger at a product or company and call them a bunch of crooks or snake oil peddlers.
  • Spinal decompression has been around for a long time and does have a therapeutic effect on herniated disc problems.  It has been referred to as traction for decades.  Usually you can find traction devices in the form of an apparatus that hangs you upside down.   The devices only cost a couple hundred dollars to purchase.  You can find them in many physiotherapist clinics, chiropractic clinics, and yes, I have one as well.  Many people even buy them for use at home.  They are relatively safe, but makes sure you talk to you doctor first, especially if you have a heart condition.  These are simple devices that resemble a swing set and look nothing like the Star Trek inspired machine at the Low Back Clinic (LBC).  The principle of why they work is essentially the same but they only use your body weight to perform the traction.  The most important difference is that we don’t charge $5,000 to use it.  It is included in the treatment as one of the many modalities you may receive.  And there are no straps, harnesses and hydraulics putting 100 lbs of force on your vertebrae.
  • Regarding the dangers of spinal decompression:
    • Re:  The lady with cancer that ended up with a crushed vertabrae.  It is easy to say in hind sight that it was obvious that she had cancer, but the truth is that the average client that comes in to see chiropractors or physiotherapists or RMT’s have already seen their family physician.  The average GP is so used to seeing low back pain that the last thing they might think of is cancer.  It is true that further down the line, the cancer might be discovered after further diagnosis and worsening of symptoms.  But often that discovery is after several misdiagnoses by General Practitioner’s (GP’s) about  the cause of the back pain.   A misdiagnosis by a GP does not mean that all doctors are incompetent frauds and a misdiagnosis by a chiropractor does not make him a charlatan.  (RMT’s have it easy, we’re not allowed to diagnose).  If the “investigation” pointed the finger at the chiropractor, it should also point the finger at the other medical professionals that misdiagnosed her back pain.
    • Re: the total lack of assessment done on the man that was first assessed and diagnosed by the orthopedic surgeon.    My question is if the man went in for his initial visit or if he went in for a free consultation.  In a free consultation, no assessments are done and the primary goal is to convince the patient to come in again for a paid initial visit.  In an initial visit with any chiropractor I have ever worked with, a minimum 30 minute thorough assessment is done.  It should also be noted that while an orthopedic surgeon may give a very thorough assessment, I have never received a full assessment by a GP.  Regardless, if that visit was in fact a paid initial visit it was incompetent, insufficient and irresponsible.
  • Here are my concerns about the LBC:
    • They should never advertise an 80% success rate.  That is misleading advertising, and especially dangerous when there isn’t research to back it up
    • They should have never said “virtually no side effects”.  Though technically allowable, it is not consistent with the professional standards of chiropractic.
    • The product is way overpriced as well.  $5000 for a treatment they could have included in their treatment with an RMT, chiropractor or physiotherapist?
    • The College of Chiropractors has a code of ethics which restricts these types of business practises.  Why did they let this happen?

  1. Syed

    I need to buy one. How much is it and where to order it. Spinal decompression