Spinal Decompression Machines Used For Chronic and Acute Back Pain - An Alternative to Pain-Medication and Back Surgery

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Non-surgical Relief for Back Pain

Spinal decompression is a non-invasive treatment used for acute and chronic spinal pain associated with herniated, ruptured, bulging, or degenerative discs. Patients suffering from associated sciatic leg pain or spinal stenosis may experience symptomatic relief after treatment. Its use is commonly thought to be somewhat safer and without the usual risks associated with invasive procedures such as pain injections or surgery.

Commonly, those patients who are recommended for this therapy have suffered from chronic pain without relief for a long time. Though in general many patients may potentially benefit from spinal surgery, various underlying conditions may make someone a poor candidate for surgery. In these cases, and usually after trials of anti-inflammatory prescriptions, steroid, and pain medication use, a patient may be recommended for non-surgical spinal decompression therapy.

How it Works

Spinal decompression therapy uses a series of 15, one minute alternating decompression (using a predetermined decompression algorithm) and relaxation cycles with a total treatment time of 30 minutes. During the decompression phase, the pressure in the disc is reduced and a vacuum effect is produced on the center of the disk. At the same time, blood carrying oxygen and water is diffused into the disc allowing the surrounding area to heal.

Uncommonly, the nerve roots are compressed from herniated discs. More commonly back and leg pain are a result of irritation to the nerve root by the inflammatory chemicals. Spinal decompression machines work to alleviate the manual pressure by applying spinal traction under controlled conditions and allow perfusion of fluid and nutrients that may reduce the body’s inflammatory response to irritation.

Similarities and Differences in Treatments

  • VAX-D Therapeutic Table - One of the first of the spinal decompression machines, it uses a motorized traction device primarily used to stretch the lower back. VAX-D is an acronym for vertebral axial decompression. The device is a two-part table in which the upper part is fixed to the table frame and the lower part slides back and forth to provide intermittent traction. The patient is anchored to the lower part by a pelvic harness.

  • Antalgic-Trak by Spinetronics – A later development, uses an articulating platform for greater range of motion within a linear field instead of a flat table.

  • Extentrac Elite - Even greater range of motion is used in a 3D field allowing a chiropractor to apply manual spinal manipulation in combination with decompression.

  • DRX9000 – A machine produced by Axiom Worldwide, it uses full range of motion but with less overall traction and greater operator control. This machine typically requires more frequent visits than its predecessors but claims a greater success rate.

Which Therapy is Right For Me?

Though spinal decompression therapy remains somewhat controversial and all machine manufacturers claim varying degrees of symptomatic relief from back pain, use of a machine for spinal decompression is typically only implemented after a thorough physical provided by a chiropractor or osteopathic physician.

Likely, a comprehensive history will be taken. In addition, imaging or nerve studies may be employed to determine the severity of your underlying conditions and appropriateness of spinal decompression.


  1. The Center for Total Back Care (2010). “What is Non-Surgical Spinal Disc Decompression?” Retrieved August 29, 2010, from https://www.totalback.com/spinal_disk_decompression_therapy.php
  2. VAX-D (2010). “Vax-D Treatment” Retrieved August 29, 2010, from https://www.vax-d.com/.
  3. Spinetronics (2010). “Why Antalgic-Trak?” Retrieved August 29, 2010, from https://www.antalgictrac.com/why-antalgic-trak-/
  4. ExtenTrac (2010). “The ExtenTrac Difference.” Retrieved August 29, 2010, from https://www.extentrac.com/XX
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