Vax D – Hype or Hope?

“Vax D” stands for “Vertebral Axial Decompression”. It’s claim to fame? – Relieving low back pain! Basically, it produces a vacuum effect within the discs of your spine, thus increasing the flow of nutrients creating a re-hydrating effect to help restore disc function and draw bulges – or herniations if you will, back into place.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Still confused? Essentially, Vax D is a fairly new spin on an old technique. In short, it is an expensive, highly technical form of mechanical traction.�¯�¿�½

Mechanical traction has been used for years for the treatment of herniated discs, otherwise known as ruptured, bulging or herniated. The discs, called the nucleus pulposis, are a gelatinous cartilage, which act like shock absorbers for your spine. Sometimes, due to injury or even aging, these discs bulge or tear, and leak out of the intervertebral space – the openings between the bones of your spine.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

These leaks can be minor, causing you virtually no pain. In fact millions of Americans have bulging discs they don’t even know they have! And yet, sometimes, even the most minor of bulges produces pressure on the spinal nerves, causing the individual excruciating pain!Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Conventional mechanical traction utilizes a specialized split table and two harnesses, one for your chest, the other for your pelvis. It uses a percentage of your body weight, to pull the bones apart, thus coaxing the protruding material back into place. Some treatment protocols utilize a static pressure, while others, intermittent, using zero, or no weight as a baseline. Standard treatment time ranges from 15-20 minutes.�¯�¿�½

But, there are problems with conventional traction. The chest harness is uncomfortable, at best. In fact, if harness is too tight, it can restrict breathing and compromise venous blood return to the heart. If it is too loose, not only do you not benefit from the stretch, you run the risk of the harness riding up under your arms, where there is a bundle of nerves which can be damaged.�¯�¿�½

Since you are already in pain, traditional traction can cause back muscles to “rebel” or tighten in an attempt to resist the stretch. This can cause an increase in the intradiscal pressure and a sharp, burning, radiating pain.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Treatments are performed at least three times per week and can last several weeks. Usually some sort of follow-up routine consisting of exercises, postural training and possible work hardening to allow you to return to activities of normal living is required.�¯�¿�½

Vax D was developed by Dr Allan E. Dyer, Ph.D., M.D. in 1989. The FDA approved Vax D to be used as a traction technique in 1995. Dyer boasted it could decompress discs as measured by lowering the intradiscal pressure. This negative intradiscal pressure or vacuum is unattainable by traditional traction or inversion tables. However, “decompression” is misleading, since the term generally refers to the surgical procedure for herniations and there is no substantiating evidence that Vax D does indeed, correct the bulge.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Vax D utilizes a specialized split table to provide for intermittent traction, and one harness at your pelvis. You upper body is held in place by overhead handles. These handles allow for immediate release of traction forces at the discretion of the client.�¯�¿�½

Vax D differs slightly from traditional traction in that all treatments are performed with the client laying face down, which is biomechanically more appropriate. Disc protrusions are commonly posterior, so laying face down coaxes the discs back into place. It also utilizes an intermittent pulling or traction, maintaining a baseline of 20-24 pounds during “rest” periods. 50 pounds of pressure is considered the threshold to develop this negative intradiscal pressure, with slow, gradual increases to 60-80 pounds. Some clients require 90-100 pounds of pressure to attain full therapeutic effect.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Commonly, Vax D treatments last 20-45 minutes, with a 30-minute “rest” period following treatment, where the client sits or lays down to prevent reactive spasms of the back muscles. Protocols recommend treatment 5 days per week followed by a short maintenance program of 2-4 weeks, where treatments are cut back to 2-3 days each week. There is usually no additional follow up treatment regime for at least four weeks to decrease the risk of increasing the intradiscal pressure. However, regular maintenance Vax D treatments may be necessary for those whose lifestyle or jobs expose them to higher risk factors of recurrent problems.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Vax D is indicated for unresponsive low back pain and has been used for such things as herniated discs, degenerated discs, facet syndrome and sciatica. It boasts the use of a gradual, logarithmic pull curve, which “fools” the muscles and allows for separation of the vertebrae, thus allowing the disc to slide back into place while decreasing the chances of reactive spasms.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Pain distributions can change during treatment, a phenomenon called “centralization”. Centralization is the process by which pain patterns migrate from peripheral distribution – or radiating pain – to a more central or proximal location. This, in essence, may increase back pain, but is generally a good sign. It is much better to have increased pain in one area than spread out pain.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Vax D can reduce the weight bearing forces in the spine, yet there is no evidence of this effect continues once the client resumes a standing position. It may claim to decrease pain, but it may not claim to relieve neurological deficits or reverse damage to nerves, as there is no substantiating evidence that bulges are corrected. In fact, Vax D is not proven to differ from other lumbar traction.�¯�¿�½

Vax D, however, is the latest technique to assist people who suffer from back pain and is used by chiropractors, osteopaths and physical therapists. It is significantly more costly than traditional traction treatments. Some insurance providers will not cover these treatments, as they are deemed “experimental” or “unproven”, while others offer reimbursement to the provider through traditional traction billing at a significantly lower rate.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Though Vax D has no proven effect for bulging discs, neither does traditional traction, yet both are utilized in unresponsive back pain. Its theory is sound – distract the bones and use gravity to “trick” the leaking substance back into place. In fact, in 1998, Vax D was said to be 71% effective for relieving pain!Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Whereas Vax D will not cure your bulging disc, it may offer you some relief! Once there is a disturbance in your mechanics, there will always be a greater risk to suffer from pain or dysfunction – the only way to “correct” the problem is through invasive surgical procedures, which come with risks of their own and may not be an option.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

So, is Vax D worth a try? Only you and your physician can determine if this treatment is right for you. Basically, you have nothing to lose but your pain – and for those of us who suffer from chronic back pain, just about anything would be worth a shot! And with over 140 clinics utilizing Vax D, it must provide some sort of relief! After all, things such as acupuncture and reflexology offer millions of people relief every day – the only way to know if Vax D will help you is to make an educated decision, and be open to new ideas. After all, you never know!

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