According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Americans spend an average of $50 billion a year seeking relief from back pain. It is the leading cause of job related disability and is second to headaches as the most common neurological ailment in the United States.
If you're among the millions of Americans with chronic back pain, you may have a serious condition called disc herniation. When a disc herniation occurs, the cushion that sits between the spinal vertebra is pushed outside its normal position. When a herniated disc bulges out from between the vertebrae, the spinal nerves and spinal cord can become pinched causing severe and debilitating pain of the back and extremities.
Dr. Rick Loos of Torrey Pines Chiropractic utilizes a technology that is changing the lives of many of his patients who suffer from this most debilitating of conditions. Called decompression therapy, it is a non-surgical option cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999.
Loos uses the DRX 9000C manufactured by Axiom Worldwide, which offers a modern twist on old-fashioned traction. The machine employs a computer-controlled system of harnesses and pulleys, which allows the patient's back to be put in a decompressed state. The pulley angles are then monitored and adjusted to the proper angle of pull to target the specific area of the spine that is causing the discomfort.
The system works by relieving pressure on the discs of the spine and literally pumps the disc promoting inbibition (movement into the disc spaces) of blood, fluid and other healing nutrients allowing the body to repair itself.
Inside of the machine is a motor that functions as a safety device responding to the body's natural tendency to guard against unnatural or damaging movements by sensing tension created by the intrinsic muscles of the body. In addition, patients have the ability to immediately stop treatment if necessary.
Prior to the development of this new system, a patient suffering from disc problems was usually given pain medications, ordered to rest, referred to physical therapy or in extreme cases, surgery. Loos acknowledged that in the past he was able to deal with the symptoms, but wasn't able to correct them and eventually the problem would flare up again, because the underlying cause was still present.
"As a chiropractor, I struggled with treating disc problems. The machine has helped my practice because now I can effectively treat problems that I couldn't treat before," said Loos. "I've been able to help patients that I didn't think would get better. I've helped people that were bent over with pain or couldn't walk or even stand."
John L. (requested his last name not be used)) of Del Mar, said that he suffered from chronic back pain that was so bad he couldn't sit at his desk and was forced to stand up to work. Having undergone decompression therapy with Dr. Loos, he claims he's pretty much back to normal. "I always recommend the therapy to people because your choices are suffering, getting on medication or having surgery," he said. "Those choices are not real good ones. This is a non-invasive way to get rid of back pain."
Decompression therapy is a cash service since Medicare, Medicaid or most private health insurance plans, does not cover it. Before undergoing treatment on the disc decompression system, patients are given a through diagnostic workup, which includes x-rays and other scans.
"This system is so effective in treating back and neck injuries that the insurance industry really should recognize it as a valid approach to healing," said Loos.
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