Brief Note: Followup on Spinal Decompression Machines

In September 2008 I wrote a post on Misleading Ads for Back Pain Treatment. with particular attention to the bogus claims for the DRX 9000.

The Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) show “Marketplace” has just done a scathing exposé of so-called nonsurgical spinal decompression treatment with machines like the DRX 9000 and of some of the unscrupulous practitioners who offer it.  Between the hidden camera footage and the weasel words of the chiropractor they interview, it’s quite entertaining.

Posted in: Chiropractic, Health Fraud

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5 thoughts on “Brief Note: Followup on Spinal Decompression Machines

  1. bluedevilRA says:

    Great find Dr. Hall. I really enjoy “Marketplace.” They did a great expose on Goji berry juice and multi-level marketing scams. I am very impressed by the show and I wish we had something like that on US television.

  2. Newcoaster says:

    I agree, a good find.
    Marketplace has been around for decades, it’s a CBC institution.
    In addition to the ones mentioned by BluedevilRA, they did a great piece on the EPFX machine a few years back

    I’m surprised that PBS doesn’t have a similar program in the USA.

  3. DLC says:

    I’m glad to see someone debunking such gimmicks.
    But what about those “hang by your feet” racks that you see advertised on late-night TV ? Does hanging upside down help any ?
    Somehow it seems plausible, but I remain skeptical.

  4. The producer of Marketplace actually called me about this show because of something on my website (see and we chatted for a while. I’m really looking forward to seeing it. Based on that conversation, I think we can expect to see more critical analysis of dubious health products and services from Marketplace in the future. I think we should send lots of appreciative email to them!

    @DLC, do-it-youself back-stretching tilt tables and other gizmos have at least one notable thing going for them: they are a great deal cheaper than “spinal decompression therapy,” and the consumer is much more free to consider the purchase without pressure from a chiropractor who stands to gain from the transaction. That doesn’t mean it’s effective, of course, but it does mean that consumers can experiment with less risk — and many patients are determined to try to traction their spine. However, the low chance of benefit remains, as do the risks. I don’t recall even any anecdotal evidence of efficacy: I’ve never met anyone who felt greatly helped by any kind of traction therapy.

  5. EvidenceBasedDC says:

    @ DLC, please don’t spend the money on an inversion table before you have tried stretching on a 6 dollar physioball that you can pick up at any Wal-Mart. The evidence on spinal decompression therapy is pretty thin and I’d never purchase one for my practice until I saw research that was from a large scale random clinical trial and was published in a peer-reviewed journal.

    For anyone interested, I’ve posted a link to a discussion article that I found helpful regarding non-surgical spinal decompression therapy.
    The gist of the article is that the evidince for it’s efficacy is limited, and there are far cheaper, better studied alternatives available.

    From a purely anecdotal perspecive, my experience with patients who have been treated with decompression is that they did experience relief during the course of their therapy, but the pain re-occured as soon as they finished their course of treatment. That is still not good enough for me.

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