Spinal decompression marketing by chiropractors investigated

Spinal decompression marketing by chiropractors investigated

by Stephen Barrett, M.D. <sbinfo

A FairWarning investigation has concluded that lax regulation and press apathy have enabled chiropractors to continue to advertise scientifically unsupported back pain relief claims for treatment with mechanized tables for spinal decompression that cost patients thousands of dollars insurers won’t cover. Patients pay thousands for a back pain treatment promoted by exaggerated claims. FairWarning, Nov 18, 2020] Patients have complained of injuries from the machines and some have received monetary damages in lawsuits. But the report notes:

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has regulatory authority over medical devices, has not responded to several complaints made by Dr. Stephen Barrett about advertising for spinal decompression machines.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has not sent warning letters to any manufacturers of the machines over the past two decades.
  • Eight state chiropractic boards contacted as part of the investigation have not taken action against individual chiropractors advertising the machines in recent years.
  • Newspapers are sustained by their advertisers, spinal decompression machines are aggressively advertised in some newspapers, and newspaper editors can be reluctant to publish investigative reports about products advertised in their papers. [Hill J. A story 12 years in the telling. Fair Warning,
    Nov 18, 2020]

FairWarning is a nonprofit (501(c)(3)) investigative news organization that focuses on public health, consumer, workplace and environmental issues, and related topics of government and business accountability. Aetna, which has evaluated published studies of decompression treatment for more than 20 years, has concluded:

Aetna considers vertebral axial decompression (e.g., by means of the VAX-D Spinal Decompression System, the Accu-SPINA System, Axiom Worldwide DRX2000, Axiom DRX3000, Axiom DRX5000, the Axiom DRX9000, the DRS (Decompression Reduction Stabilization) System, DRX, the Alpha-SPINA System, the Dynatron DX2, the Lordex Lumbar Spine System, the Saunders 3D ActiveTrac, Spinerx LDM, Tru Tac 401, NuChoice Medical Healthstar Elite Decompression Therapy, the Antalgic-Trak, the Cert Health Sciences SpineMED Decompression Table, Integrity Spinal Care System, MTD 4000 Mettler Traction Decompression System, or Internal Disc Decompression (IDD) Therapy, also known as Intervertebral Differential Dynamics Therapy) experimental and investigational. Currently, there is no adequate scientific evidence that proves that vertebral axial decompression is an effective adjunct to conservative therapy for back pain. In addition, vertebral axial decompression devices have not been adequately studied as alternatives to back surgery. [Vertebral axial decompression. Aetna clinical
policy bulletin, Oct 1, 2020]

Chirobase has additional background information on spinal decompression devices.

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