Origins and Evidence of IDD Therapy


Traction as a treatment for back pain has always been popular in principle, however, results of clinical trials have shown inconsistent results 1.  In 1991 a lumbar distraction device called the VAX‐ D became popular in the US and Canada and was reported to improve lumbar disc injuries and neurological symptoms in some patients.

In 1995 Ramos and Martin directly measured the effects of vertebral axial decompression and recorded a significant reduction in intradiscal pressure of up to ‐100 mm Hg with applied tension in the upper range. 2

The absolute measurement of a fall in intradiscal pressure raised important questions of new treatment possibilities to promote fluid and nutrient diffusion and therefore to improve disc health.

In 1997 Shealy and Borgmeyer studied the findings of Ramos and Martin and the shortcomings of traditional traction, and performed a single blind, randomised controlled trial comparing traditional traction with distraction decompression techniques. The study used new computer directed technology which allowed the clinicians to change and accurately measure angles of application of a variable distraction force.

Trial patients had been suffering from various lumbar pain syndromes including lumbar radiculopathy, disc degeneration, herniation and facet syndrome. With fluoroscopy, a 7mm distraction at L5 was observed in several patients and distraction was observed at different lumbar spinal levels by altering the angle of application and the amount of distraction force.

86% of patients treated with decompression for disc herniation enjoyed good to excellent results whilst only 55% of traction patients enjoyed good outcomes and none had an excellent outcome. 3

Eyerman found that mechanical decompression distraction not only provided symptomatic improvements in patients with lumbar pain syndromes, but also improvement in MRI findings from pre‐to post treatment showing reduced disc herniation and improved hydration after only 11 sessions. 4

McClure and Farris examined the results of 415 patients treated over a two year period using IDD Therapy protocols. The study showed a 79% success rate for patients with lumbar back pain and interestingly, a 92% success rate in 129 patients previously categorised as surgery candidates.5

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