Average Costs of Common Chronic Back Pain Treatments

  • Average cost of Spinal Fusion: $46,429*

  • Average cost of Discetomy: $13,210*

  • Average cost of Epidural: $1000/shot with a minimum of 3 shots needed to achieve relief for a grand total average cost of $3000.**

  • Average cost of physical therapy: $200 per visit with an average of 8 visits needed to achieve acceptable results for an average total cost of $1600.*

  • Cost of DDS 300: $299




Arthritis: Your Spine's Arch Enemy

A common deteriorating condition of the spine as you get older is that age-old problem known as arthritis. It is so common in the spine that to some degree over 95 percent of individuals who are 50 and older have osteoarthritis which is a general wear and tear or degenerative changes to the bones of the spine. The most common spot for arthritis to first rear its ugly head is in the lower back. This is because it is the lower spine that takes the most abuse due to its position on the “totem pole”. Being at the bottom means the vertebrae in the lumber spine suffer from the wearing effects of gravity.

When arthritis occurs in the lumbar spine and as the vertebra deform and as the spinal canal shrinks there are a myriad of painful problems that can occur including the irritation of nerve roots such as the sciatic nerve which can lead to sciatica.

Arthritis back pain is a very common type of back pain affecting older people. In fact, if you take an X-ray to look for spinal arthritis, 95 percent of people over age 50 will have some degenerative or "wear and tear" changes in their spines. This type of arthritis is classified as osteoarthritis.

Arthritis can affect any joint, and that includes the joints in the back.  And the most common area is the lower back.

Symptoms of arthritis of the spine are caused when the bones or other structures of the back put pressure on or pinch the spinal cord or the nerve roots that emerge from the spinal cord. When the spinal canal — the bony canal in which the spinal cord is located — is significantly narrowed by arthritis, it is called spinal stenosis, and wear and tear over time is the most common cause. Spinal stenosis typically causes back pain accompanied by pain or numbness in the legs.

Causes and Risk Factors for Spinal Arthritis

You have 26 bones in your back, stacked on top of each other and separated by disk “cushions”. Your back bones allow you to stand up, and they also protect your spinal cord and spinal nerves.

Osteoarthritis occurs when the bands of tissue that support your spine thicken, the bones and joints change shape, and the surfaces of the bones bulge out as spurs. Any of these changes can put pressure on other structures and cause pain.

Although the majority of spinal arthritis is caused by wear-and-tear arthritis, it can also be from inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. However, rheumatoid spinal arthritis usually affects younger people and it is not a common cause of arthritis back pain.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis back pain include:

  • Age. Arthritis back pain is most common in people over age 50, but symptoms may start by age 30. Some people will not experience back pain until they are in their 70s. The luckiest of us, although rare, will never experience back pain.
  • Being too heavy. It’s logical. The more weight you are carrying the more abuse you are putting on your back.
  • Injuring your back. A history of trauma to your spine or a history of spinal surgery can increase your risk for developing spinal arthritis.

Symptoms of Arthritis in the Back

Arthritis back pain symptoms can occur anywhere along the spine. They usually come on slowly and get worse over time. "People who have spinal stenosis from arthritis in their back usually get some relief by leaning forward, and their symptoms get worse while standing. They may need to lean forward and rest on their shopping cart in the store," says Kovacs.

Other symptoms of arthritis of the spine may include:

  • Neck pain that radiates into the shoulders and arms
  • Back pain that radiates into the buttocks and legs
  • Numbness, cramping, or weakness in the arms or legs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Diagnosis and Treatment for Arthritis of the Spine

Doctors can usually diagnose spinal arthritis by taking your medical history and doing a physical exam. A good old plain X-ray is sometimes the only other diagnostic exam needed. If symptoms persist over time, the next step is usually an MRI.

Treatment of arthritis back pain usually starts with rest, but may require medications, physical therapy, and surgery as a last resort. In the past doctors used to advise rest for a longer periods of time for back pain, but it has been since learned that returning to activity sooner is usually better. This is because keeping blood flowing to the muscles in the back thereby keeping nutrients flowing keeps the muscles loose and in shape and prevents atrophy and spasms.

Common approaches to ease arthritis back pain may include:

  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support the back
  • Medications to relieve pain and reduce swelling
  • Weight loss and regular exercise
  • Alternative treatments such as chiropractic manipulation or acupuncture
  • Surgical treatment to relieve pressure on the spine or the spinal nerves
  • Back braces such as the DDS 500 decompression brace

If you have arthritis back pain or neck pain that radiates into your arms or legs, work with your doctor to find the best treatment. You should always tell your doctor about spinal arthritis symptoms of numbness and weakness. Loss of bladder or bowel control may be a symptom of spinal arthritis which is causing dangerous pressure on the nerves of the lower back. This is an emergency symptom and requires immediate attention.

Arthritis back pain is very common, especially if you are over age 50. Although there is no cure for arthritis of the spine, in most cases symptoms of arthritis back pain can be relieved by conservative treatment and lifestyle changes. A decompression back brace such as the DDS 500 can offset the effects of gravity and help minimize or eliminate pain.


Back Pain Cliff Notes

Low Back Pain Overview

Lower back pain is a common problem, affecting nearly percent of Americans at some point in their lifetime. Of that 90 percent, around 50 percent will have experience low back pain more than once.

Low back pain is not a disease. It is a symptom that can manifest due to a variety of different processes. Interestingly enough, in around 85 percent of the cases, even though a thorough medical examination has been performed, no specific cause of the pain can be identified.

  • Americans spend over $50 billion a year on low back pain.
  • Low back pain is second only to the common cold as a cause of lost days at work. It is also one of the most common reasons to visit a doctor's office or a hospital's emergency department. It is the second most common neurologic complaint in the United States, second only to headache.
  • For 90 percent of people, even those with nerve root irritation, their symptoms will improve within two months no matter what treatment is used, even if no treatment is given.
  • Doctors usually refer to back pain as acute if it has been present for less than 2-3 months and chronic if it lasts for a longer period of time.

Low Back Pain Causes

Back pain is not a condition, it is a symptom. Common causes of back pain include:

  • Disease or injury to the muscles, bones, and/or nerves of the spine.
  • Pain arising from abnormalities of organs within the abdomen, pelvis, or chest may also be felt in the back—called referred pain. Examples of disorders within the abdomen that can cause referred pain are aneurysms, appendicitis, bladder infections, kidney diseases, kidney infection, pelvic infections, and ovarian disorders.
  • Normal pregnancy can cause back pain in many ways, including stretching ligaments within the pelvis, irritating nerves, and straining the low back.
  • Nerve root syndromes are those that produce symptoms of nerve impingement (a nerve is directly irritated), often due to a herniation (or bulging) of the disc between the lower back bones. Sciatica is an example of nerve root impingement. Impingement pain tends to be sharp, affecting a specific area, and associated with numbness in the area of the leg that the affected nerve supplies.
  • Herniated discs develop as the spinal discs degenerate or grow thinner. The jellylike central portion of the disc bulges out of the central cavity and pushes against a nerve root. Intervertebral discs begin to degenerate by the third decade of life. Herniated discs are found in one-third of adults older than 20 years of age. Only 3 percent of these, however, produce symptoms of nerve impingement.
  • Spondylosis occurs as intervertebral discs lose moisture and volume with age, which decreases the disc height. Even minor trauma under these circumstances can cause inflammation and nerve root impingement, which can produce classic sciatica without disc rupture.
  • Spinal disc degeneration coupled with disease in joints of the low back can lead to spinal-canal narrowing (spinal stenosis). These changes in the disc and the joints produce symptoms and can be seen on an X-ray. A person with spinal stenosis may have pain radiating down both lower extremities while standing for a long time or walking even short distances.
  • Cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency whereby the spinal cord is directly compressed. Disc material expands into the spinal canal, which compresses the nerves. A person would experience pain, possible loss of sensation, and bowel or bladder dysfunction. This could include inability to control urination causing incontinence or the inability to begin urination.
  • Musculoskeletal pain syndromes that produce low back pain include myofascial pain syndromes and fibromyalgia.
  • Myofascial pain is characterized by pain and tenderness over localized areas (trigger points), loss of range of motion in the involved muscle groups, and pain radiating in a characteristic distribution but restricted to a peripheral nerve. Relief of pain is often reported when the involved muscle group is stretched.
  • Fibromyalgia results in widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body. Generalized stiffness, fatigue, and muscle aches are reported.
  • Infection of the bones (osteomyelitis) of the spine are an uncommon cause of low back pain.
  • Noninfectious inflammation of the spine (spondylitis) can cause stiffness and pain in the spine that is particularly worse in the morning. Ankylosing spondylitis typically begins in adolescents and young adults.
  • Tumors, possibly cancerous, can be a source of skeletal pain.
  • Inflammation of nerves from the spine can occur with infection of the nerves with the herpes zoster virus that causes shingles. This can occur in the thoracic area to cause upper back pain or in the lumbar area to cause low back pain.
  • As can be seen from the extensive, but not all inclusive, list of possible causes of low back pain, it is important to have a thorough medical evaluation to guide possible diagnostic tests.

Low Back Pain Symptoms

Pain in the lumbosacral area (lower part of the back) is the primary symptom of low back pain.

  • The pain may radiate down the front, side, or back of your leg, or it may be confined to the low back.
  • The pain may become worse with activity.
  • Occasionally, the pain may be worse at night or with prolonged sitting such as on a long car trip.
  • You may have numbness or weakness in the part of the leg that receives its nerve supply from a compressed nerve.

When to Seek Medical Care

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has identified 11 red flags that doctors look for when evaluating a person with back pain. The focus of these red flags is to detect fractures (broken bones), infections, or tumors of the spine. Presence of any of the following red flags associated with low back pain should prompt a visit to your doctor as soon as possible for complete evaluation.

  • Recent significant trauma such as a fall from a height, motor vehicle accident, or similar incident
  • Recent mild trauma in those older than 50 years of age: A fall down a few steps or slipping and landing on the buttocks may be considered mild trauma.
  • History of prolonged steroid use: People with asthma, COPD, and rheumatic disorders, for example, may be given this type of medication.
  • Anyone with a history of osteoporosis: An elderly woman with a history of a hip fracture, for example, would be considered high risk.
  • Any person older than 70 years of age: There is an increased incidence of cancer, infections, and abdominal causes of the pain.
  • Prior history of cancer
  • History of a recent infection
  • Temperature over 100 F
  • IV drug use: Such behavior markedly increases risk of an infectious cause.
  • Low back pain worse at rest: This is thought to be associated with an infectious or malignant cause of pain but can also occur with ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Unexplained weight loss

The presence of any of the above would justify a visit to a hospital's emergency department, particularly if your family doctor is unable to evaluate you within the next 24 hours.

  • The presence of any acute nerve dysfunction should also prompt an immediate visit. These would include the inability to walk or inability to raise or lower your foot at the ankle. Also included would be the inability to raise the big toe upward or walk on your heels or stand on your toes. These might indicate an acute nerve injury or compression. Under certain circumstances, this may be an acute neurosurgical emergency.
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control, including difficulty starting or stopping a stream of urine or incontinence, can be a sign of an acute emergency and requires urgent evaluation in an emergency department.
  • If you cannot manage the pain using the medicine you are currently prescribed, this may be an indication for a reevaluation or to go to an emergency department if your doctor is not available. Generally, this problem is best addressed with the doctor writing the prescription who is overseeing your care.
  • This can cause an inability to plantar flex the foot. This means you would be unable to stand on your toes or bring your foot downward. This occurs when the first sacral nerve is compressed or injured.
  • Another example would be the inability to raise your big toe upward. This results when the fifth lumbar nerve is compromised.

Low Back Pain Exams and Tests

Medical history

  • Because many different conditions may cause back pain, a thorough medical history will be performed as part of the examination. Some of the questions you are asked may not seem pertinent to you but are very important to your doctor in determining the source of your pain.
  • Your doctor will first ask you many questions regarding the onset of the pain. (Were you lifting a heavy object and felt an immediate pain? Did the pain come on gradually?) He or she will want to know what makes the pain better or worse. The doctor will ask you questions referring to the red flag symptoms. He or she will ask if you have had the pain before. Your doctor will ask about recent illnesses and associated symptoms such as coughs, fevers, urinary difficulties, or stomach illnesses. In females, the doctor will want to know about vaginal bleeding, cramping, or discharge. Pain from the pelvis, in these cases, is frequently felt in the back.

Physical examination

  • To ensure a thorough examination, you will be asked to put on a gown. The doctor will watch for signs of nerve damage while you walk on your heels, toes, and soles of the feet. Reflexes are usually tested using a reflex hammer. This is done at the knee and behind the ankle. As you lie flat on your back, one leg at a time is elevated, both with and without the assistance of the doctor. This is done to test the nerves, muscle strength, and assess the presence of tension on the sciatic nerve. Sensation is usually tested using a pin, paper clip, broken tongue depressor, or other sharp object to assess any loss of sensation in your legs.
  • Depending on what the doctor suspects is wrong with you, the doctor may perform an abdominal examination, a pelvic examination, or a rectal examination. These exams look for diseases that can cause pain referred to your back. The lowest nerves in your spinal cord serve the sensory area and muscles of the rectum, and damage to these nerves can result in inability to control urination and defecation. Thus, a rectal examination is essential to make sure that you do not have nerve damage in this area of your body.


  • Doctors can use several tests to "look inside you" to get an idea of what might be causing the back pain. No single test is perfect in that it identifies the absence or presence of disease 100% of the time.
  • If there are no red flags, there is often little to be gained in obtaining X-rays for patients with acute back pain. Because about 90% of people have improved within 30 days of the onset of their back pain, most doctors will not order tests in the routine evaluation of acute, uncomplicated back pain.
  • Plain X-rays are generally not considered useful in the evaluation of acute back pain, particularly in the first 30 days. In the absence of red flags, their use is discouraged. Their use is indicated if there is significant trauma, mild trauma in those older than 50 years of age, people with osteoporosis, and those with prolonged steroid use. Do not expect an X-ray to be taken.
  • Myelogram is an X-ray study in which a radio-opaque dye is injected directly into the spinal canal. Its use has decreased dramatically since MRI scanning. A myelogram now is usually done in conjunction with a CT scan and, even then, only in special situations when surgery is being planned.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are a highly detailed test and are very expensive. The test does not use X-rays but very strong magnets to produce images. Their routine use is discouraged in acute back pain unless a condition is present that may require immediate surgery, such as with cauda equina syndrome or when red flags are present and suggest infection of the spinal canal, bone infection, tumor, or fracture.
  • MRI may also be considered after one month of symptoms to rule out more serious underlying problems.
  • MRIs are not without problems. Bulging of the discs is noted on up to 40% of MRIs performed on people without back pain. Other studies have shown that MRIs fail to diagnose up to 20% of ruptured discs that are found during surgery.
  • A CT scan is an X-ray test that is able to produce a cross-sectional picture of the body. CT scan is used much like MRI.

Nerve tests

  • Electromyogram or EMG is a test that involves the placement of very small needles into the muscles. Electrical activity is monitored. Its use is usually reserved for more chronic pain and to predict the level of nerve root damage. The test is also able to help the doctor distinguish between nerve root disease and muscle disease.

Blood tests

  • Sedimentation rate or C-reactive protein are blood tests that can indicate whether or not inflammation is present in the body.
  • Complete blood count (CBC) is used to detect elevations of white blood cells and anemia.

Low Back Pain Treatment

Self-Care at Home

General recommendations are to resume normal, or near normal, activity as soon as possible. However, stretching or activities that place additional strain on the back are discouraged.

  • Sleeping with a pillow between the knees while lying on one side may increase comfort. Some doctors recommend lying on your back with a pillow under your knees.
  • No specific back exercises were found that improved pain or increased functional ability in people with acute back pain. Exercise, however, may be useful for people with chronic back pain to help them return to normal activities and work. These exercises usually involve stretching maneuvers.
  • Nonprescription medications may provide relief from pain.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin, or Motrin), available over the counter, is an excellent medication for the short-term treatment of low back pain. Because of the risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, talk with your doctor about using this medication for a long time.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) has been shown to be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain.
  • Topical agents such as deep-heating rubs have not been shown to be effective.
  • Some people seem to benefit from the use of ice or heat. Their use, although not proven effective, is not considered to be harmful. Take care: Do not use a heating pad on "high" or place ice directly on the skin.
  • Most experts agree that prolonged bed rest is associated with a longer recovery period. Further, people on bed rest are more likely to develop depression, blood clots in the leg, and decreased muscle tone. Very few experts recommend more than a 48-hour period of decreased activity or bed rest. In other words, get up and get moving to the extent you can.

Medical Treatment

Initial treatment of low back pain is based on the assumption that the pain in about 90% of people will go away on its own in about a month. Many different treatment options are available. Some of them have been proven to work while others are of more questionable use. You should discuss all remedies you tried with your health-care provider.

Home care is recommended for the initial treatment of low back pain. Bed rest remains of unproven value, and most experts recommend no more than two days of bed rest or decreased activity. Some people with sciatica may benefit from two to four days of rest. Application of local ice and heat provide relief for some people and should be tried. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are useful for controlling pain.

  • Many studies have called into question the usefulness of our present treatment of back pain. For any given person, it is not known if a particular therapy will provide benefit until it is tried. Your doctor may try treatments known to be helpful in the past.

Low Back Pain Medications

Medication treatment options depend on the precise diagnosis of the low back pain. Your doctor will decide which medication, if any, is best for you based on your medical history, allergies, and other medications you may be taking.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are the mainstay of medical treatment for the relief of back pain. Ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen, and many others are available. No particular NSAID has been shown to be more effective for the control of pain than another. However, your doctor may switch you from one NSAID to another to find one that works best for you.
  • COX-2 inhibitors, such as celecoxib (Celebrex), are more selective members of NSAIDs. Although increased cost can be a negative factor, the incidence of costly and potentially fatal bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract is clearly less with COX-2 inhibitors than with traditional NSAIDs. Long-term safety (possible increased risk for heart attack or stroke) is currently being evaluated for COX-2 inhibitors and NSAIDs.
  • Acetaminophen is considered effective for treating acute pain as well. NSAIDs do have a number of potential side effects, including gastric irritation and kidney damage, with long-term use.
  • Muscle relaxants: Muscle spasm is not universally accepted as a cause of back pain, and most relaxants have no effect on muscle spasm. Muscle relaxants may be more effective than a placebo (sugar pill) in treating back pain, but none has been shown to be superior to NSAIDs. No additional benefit is gained by using muscle relaxants in combination with NSAIDs over using NSAIDs alone. Muscle relaxants cause drowsiness in up to 30% of people taking them. Their use is not routinely recommended.
  • Opioid analgesics: These drugs are considered an option for pain control in acute back pain. The use of these medications is associated with serious side effects, including dependence, sedation, decreased reaction time, nausea, and clouded judgment. One of the most troublesome side effects is constipation. This occurs in a large percentage of people taking this type of medication for more than a few days. A few studies support their short-term use for temporary pain relief. Their use, however, does not speed recovery.
  • Steroids: Oral steroids can be of benefit in treating acute sciatica. Steroid injections into the epidural space have not been found to decrease duration of symptoms or improve function and are not currently recommended for the treatment of acute back pain without sciatica. Benefit in chronic pain with sciatica remains controversial. Injections into the posterior joint spaces, the facets, may be beneficial for people with pain associated with sciatica. Trigger point injections have not been proven helpful in acute back pain. Trigger point injections with a steroid and a local anesthetic may be helpful in chronic back pain. Their use remains controversial.

Low Back Pain Surgery

Surgery is seldom considered for acute back pain unless sciatica or the cauda equina syndrome is present. Surgery is considered useful for people with certain progressive nerve problems caused by herniated discs.

Other Therapy

  • Spinal manipulation: Osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation appears to be beneficial in people during the first month of symptoms. Studies on this topic have produced conflicting results. The use of manipulation for people with chronic back pain has been studied as well, also with conflicting results. The effectiveness of this treatment remains unknown. Manipulation has not been found to benefit people with nerve root problems.
  • Acupuncture: Current evidence does not support the use of acupuncture for the treatment of acute back pain. Scientifically valid studies are not available. Use of acupuncture remains controversial.
  • Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS): TENS provides pulses of electrical stimulation through surface electrodes. For acute back pain, there is no proven benefit. Two small studies produced inconclusive results, with a trend toward improvement with TENS. In chronic back pain, there is conflicting evidence regarding its ability to help relieve pain. One study showed a slight advantage at one week for TENS but no difference at three months and beyond. Other studies showed no benefit for TENS at any time. There is no known benefit for sciatica.
  • Exercises: In acute back pain, there is currently no evidence that specific back exercises are more effective in improving function and decreasing pain than other conservative therapy. In chronic pain, studies have shown a benefit from the strengthening exercises. Physical therapy can be guided optimally be specialized therapists.


After your initial visit for back pain, it is recommended that you follow your doctor's instructions as carefully as possible. This includes taking the medications and performing activities as directed. Back pain will, in all likelihood, improve within several days. Do not be discouraged if you don't achieve immediate improvement. Nearly everyone improves within a month of onset of the pain.

Low Back Pain Prevention

The prevention of back pain is, itself, somewhat controversial. It has long been thought that exercise and an all-around healthy lifestyle would prevent back pain. This is not necessarily true. In fact, several studies have found that the wrong type of exercise such as high-impact activities may increase the chance of suffering back pain. Nonetheless, exercise is important for overall health and should not be avoided. Low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, and bicycling can increase overall fitness without straining the low back.

  • Specific exercises: Talk to your doctor about how to perform these exercises.
  • Abdominal crunches, when performed properly, strengthen abdominal muscles and may decrease the tendency to suffer back pain.
  • Although not useful to treat back pain, stretching exercises are helpful in alleviating tight back muscles.
  • The pelvic tilt also helps alleviate tight back muscles.
  • Lumbar support belts: Workers who frequently perform heavy lifting are often required to wear these belts. There is no proof that these belts prevent back injury. One study even indicated that these belts increased the likelihood of injury.
  • Standing: While standing, keep your head up and stomach pulled in. If you are required to stand for long periods of time, you should have a small stool on which to rest one foot at a time. Do not wear high heels.
  • Sitting: Chairs of appropriate height for the task at hand with good lumbar support are preferable. To avoid putting stress on the back, chairs should swivel. Automobile seats should also have adequate low-back support. If not, a small pillow or rolled towel behind the lumbar area will provide adequate support.
  • Sleeping: Individual needs vary. If the mattress is too soft, many people will experience backaches. The same is true for sleeping on a hard mattress. Trial and error may be required. A piece of plywood between the box spring and mattress will stiffen a soft bed. A thick mattress pad will help soften a mattress that is too hard.
  • Lifting: Don't lift objects that are too heavy for you. If you attempt to lift something, keep your back straight up and down, head up, and lift with your knees. Keep the object close to you, don't stoop over to lift. Tighten your stomach muscles to keep your back in balance.

Low Back Pain Prognosis

The prognosis for people with acute back pain associated with red flags (described above) depends on the underlying cause of the pain.

  • Up to 90 percent of people experience an episode of back pain without other health concerns, and their symptoms will go away on their own within a month. For about half, back pain may return.
  • About 80% of people with sciatica will eventually recover, with or without surgery. The recovery period is much longer than for uncomplicated, acute back pain.
  • You can improve your chances of early recovery by staying active and avoiding more than two days of relative bed rest.

Stress and Back Pain

Your spine is under a lot of stress. For heck’s sake, it cushions all your movements, distributes your weight and holds you upright…not to mention al the neglectful things you do to it such as bad posture, lifting heavy objects wrong, etc.


Then, to add insult to injury, stress from finances, your job, your spouse, your kids, your neighbor’s kids, your social life (or lack thereof) your back and neck don't stand a chance. As it turns out, stress is a contributing factor in many cases of back pain and neck pain.


The worst thing you can do about stress and back pain is to ignore it. It won’t go away. Here’s what you should do instead:


  • Don't cut out exercise. Keeping your core muscles strong is the number one things you can do to prevent back pain. A strong core supports your spine and keeps your vertebra from putting too much constant pressure on your discs, which in turn helps you from developing degenerative disc disease and from getting a non-violent (traumatic injury induced) bulging or herniated disc.
  • Stretch: Keeping your back muscles limber helps keep them oxygenated and prevents them from over tightening and pulling unevenly.
  • Take breaks at work. Walk away from your computer. Frequent breaks also prevent you from sitting in one position all day—a very bad habit that can lead to tense muscles and back and / or neck pain.
  • Don’t Slouch: Bad posture puts uneven pressure/stress on your discs and can cause them to wear down prematurely.
  • Meditate: Meditation can bring you to a state of relaxation which helps with blood flow and relaxed muscles.
  • Get Away: Take a vacation, take a day off, get out into the wilderness. Do anything you can to rejuvenate your soul.

Half Truths (Power Point Presentation)

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The Problem with Spinal Fusions

Spinal fusion is a complex surgery that involves the combining or “fusing” two or or more vertebrae into one solid, non-flexing unit. The first spinal fusion surgeries were performed in the early 1900’s, but were primarily done to limit deformities created by tuberculosis infections. Many patients who underwent the surgery in those early days reported that their low back pain had subsided to some degree as an unexpected side effect of the surgery. Since then, spinal fusion surgery has grown in scope and popularity.

Though the basic principles and goals are the same, modern spinal fusion is quite a bit more complex and often involves cages which “cage” two vertebrae together secured by screws or pins which are usually threaded and are either square or cylindrical shaped. Most cage models and screws are made of titanium with a few made of carbon fiber.

While spinal fusion is still a very viable option for many back pain sufferers, especially those with deformities, its use has proliferated exponentially in the last decade. According to a CBS News report, the number of spinal fusions rose by 70 percent from 2001 to 2011, rising to an astounding level of 490,000 spinal fusions performed each year. Today there are more spinal fusions performed than hip replacements according to the report. But unlike hip replacements that have an impressive success rate, spinal fusions are peppered with controversy.

Proponents for spinal fusion surgery tout its success with little mention of any shortcomings or negative side effects. In fact, so many patients who have had the procedure done are still in pain that this category of spinal surgery accounts for a significant part the failed back surgery tally….a count so large that the medical industry at large has a name for it: FBSS (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome).

Dr. Sohail Mirza, Chair of Orthopaedics at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, has issued reports warning people against spinal fusions. In the CBS New report he offer the brutal advice to any candidate for spinal fusion surgery: “The benefits are limited and short lived.” He goes on to say that commonly in as little as a year to two years later, the pain is back and in many cases increased.

The challenge of spinal fusion are many. For starters the fact that foreign objects are being introduced into the body and directly drilled/inserted into bone can lead to problems down the road, including life-threatening problems for 1 in 20 spinal fusion patients. Nerve damage is also common, leading to more pain or nerve death. Another problem is an increase in stress on the remaining “healthy” disc and vertebrae. Because two vertebrae that were once flexible are now melded into one nonmoving unit, the disc and vertebra just above the fusion now receives twice the stress and therefore wears down at an increasing rate. This phenomenon is exacerbated when more than two vertebrae are fused. And as a disturbing trend, multiple-vertebrae fusions are becoming more common with some surgeons fusing as many as 5 vertebra at a time.

Answering why this trend is happening can be as easy as following the money. According to the same CBS News report, “A spinal implant maker can earn tens of thousands of dollars from a single fusion.

Many of these companies also pay surgeons to promote and develop new products. Those involved say the arrangements fuel innovation. Medical ethicists contend that they can also create conflicts of interest and influence a doctor to use a certain company's products.”

Spinal fusion certainly has its place. But with so many leading to FBSS and increased stress on the remaining mobile discs and vertebrae, one has to ask, “Is it worth the risk, and the cost?”

This question becomes more relevant in light of the fact that other, significantly-less expensive options are available that address the core reason so many modern fusion take place—to decompress and remove stress from a severely damaged or diseases disc.

Decompression therapy costs just 1 to 3 percent what spinal fusion can cost, and its success rate is quite remarkable. The most affordable form of decompression therapy is a decompression back brace or traction belt such as the DDS 300 or DDS 500. Another decompression option includes decompression tables usually found at chiropractor’s offices.

Before you consent to spinal fusion surgery…or any spine surgery for that matter, do your research and give alternative approaches a try. You may just find the relief you are looking for at a fraction of the price.


Back Pain Terminology and Definitions

Acute back pain: Back pain that occurs for less than six months.

Analgesics: Any member of the group of drugs uses to achieve relief from pain (analgesia). Includes over-the-counter drugs such as Ibuprofen or acetaminophen or prescription drugs such as Percocet or Lortabs.

Block: A permanent or temporary targeted injection of pain medication that prevents a nerve from continuing to send pain signals to given area of the body.

Cervical vertebrae: Consists of seven vertebrae in the neck. They are individually numbered: C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, and C7.

Chronic back pain: Back pain that persists for more than six months.

Decompression: The elimination of pressure on a nerve or the spinal cord via back surgery or exterior manipulation such as with a decompression brace or a chiropractic adjustment.

Disc: Sometimes spelled with a “k” (Disk). It is a circular soft tissue grouping found between each vertebrae. It consists of a fibrous shell and a jelly-like nucleus. Its primary function is to cushion the vertebra allowing the spine to be flexible.

Disc replacement: Removal and replacement of a damaged disc via surgery.

Epidural:  The word “epidural" is commonly used to describe an injection of pain medication into the epidural space which is the area between the bone and the membrane which encloses the brain and spinal cord.

Facet joints: Also known as Zygapophyseal or “Z” joints are joints between adjacent vertebra.

Fusion: The joining of two vertebrae together for greater stability via surgery. Fusions usually achieved using cages which are the prosthesis that holds/fuses the two vertebrae together.

Ligaments: Strong bands of tissue that connect bones to other bones in joints including the spine.

Lumbar vertebrae: Five vertebrae in the lower back numbered L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5.

Muscle relaxants: Drugs which help relax the muscles which can be beneficial to those suffering from muscle spasms.

Opioids or opiates: Prescription pain medications such as morphine that decrease the perception of pain by binding to receptors in the central nervous system.

Sciatica: The term used to describe the condition of pain caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve which is the main nerve stemming from the lower spine and running down either leg. An irritated sciatic nerve can manifest pain in the buttocks, upper or lower leg and/or foot. It can also manifest as numbness or tingling.

Spinal cord stimulators: Battery powered units such as TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) units that help manage pain signals by occupying the nerve channels overriding the pain.

Spinal fluid: The fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain.

Spinal manipulation: The most common form of spinal manipulation is chiropractic manipulation performed by a trained doctor of chiropractor.  However, any adjustment, even those using a device such as a decompression table, rigid back brace or decompression back brace, also fall under this definition.

Spine: The main structure of the back made up of bones called vertebrae and of ligaments, discs, and nerves.

Tendons: Tough bands of tissue holding muscle to bone.

Thoracic vertebrae: The 12 vertebrae located between the neck (cervical) vertebrae and the lower back (lumbar) vertebrae. They are numbered C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7, C8, C9, C10, C11 and C12.

Traction: Use of a brace, harness or table to stretch the back in order achieve decompression with the goal of relieving pain.

Vertebra: One of 33 bones comprising the spine. They stacked in a column one upon each other, with discs in between.

Vertebral compression fracture: A fracture within a vertebra, which causes the vertebra to collapse.


10 Things that will Ruin Your Back

According to studies, at some point in our lives back pain will affect around 80 percent of. Often times it will be due to some repeated behavior that we can change.

If you are suffering from back pain or if you wish to do the right things to avoid back pain in the future, avoid these ten bad habits:

1.    Not exercising. Your back, particularly your lower back, are very reliant on the thousands (yes thousands) of muscles that help keep you vertical, allow you to bend over and twist and all of the other movements you put your torso through on a daily basis. The failure to do any exercise, particularly abdominal strengthening exercises, can lead to bad posture and increased stress on your spine which can lead to premature wear and eventually low back pain.

2.    Poor posture. Remember all those times your mother lectured you to sit up straight? Turns out her admonitions were rooted in more than just in her desire to see you look more proper at the family dinner table. Poor posture can add strain to muscles and put stress on the spine that over time can actually change its anatomical characteristics. Slouching while sitting in a chair is the worst but even standing the wrong way can put undue stress on your lower back.

3.    Lifting Incorrectly. Here’s advice you’ve likely heard more than a few times. Bend your knees and use the power of your legs when you lift. Keep the weight of the object you are lifting close to your body and avoid twisting while lifting. If the object is heavy or awkward or both, get help from a lifting buddy or use a machine to do the work.

4.    Being overweight. It should come as no surprise that being overweight can, over time, wear your back down. Having a large belly shifts the entire center of your gravity forward and puts additional strain on your back muscles.

5.    Smoking. Degenerative disc disease is one of the top causes of low back pain, and the restriction of blood flow as a result of nicotine from cigarette smoking is one of the top promoters for disc disease. Cigarette smoking also inhibits calcium absorption and prevents new bone growth.  

6.    Lacking Nutrients. Nutrients such as vitamin D and calcium are essential for bone strength. Other nutrients can help with good blood flow and cell health. Be sure to eat well and if necessary take supplemental vitamins.

7.    Being Lazy. Excessive lying around, being a couch potato, taking the elevator when you could take the stairs: These are all indirect ways of hurting your back via losing strength. And a weak spine is a spine that is more susceptible to damage and disease.

8.    Staying Sedentary. Your thought after back pain first manifests itself may be to stay inactive. But staying down for tool long can actually do more harm than good. Activity increases blood flow to the affected area which will help the inflammation to decrease and muscle tension to loosen.

9.    Over Exertion: Just as too much inactivity is bad for your back, so too is too much activity all at once. While the most common result of suddenly working a muscle group or area of the body to vigorously is sore muscles, there is a risk of muscle tearing and or pulling. The best advice is to stay active and in shape at all times.

10.  Having Surgery. While back or spine surgery may very well be necessary in some cases, back surgery has such a low success rate that there is such a thing as FBSS (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome). Before consenting to a discectomy, lamectomy, a cage or any other type of back surgery, be sure to exhaust all your natural and non-evasive options such as decompression via a decompression back brace such as the DDS 300, DDS 500, DDS Double or DDS Double Lite. 

Back Spasms

According to research, approximately eight out of 10 adults will back pain as a result of muscle spasms at least once during their lives. As a general rule, muscle spasms are caused by overuse such as when doing manual labor or working out or from participating in a strenuous sporting event. They can, however, also be caused by minor and often undetected injuries in the lumbar spine. And, once you get muscle spasms, you are likely to get them again.


The muscles in your lower back work in conjunction with the abdominal musculature. Without them, movement and stability of the spinal column would be impossible. 

Technically speaking, back spasms are involuntary, spontaneous contractions of a muscle. And although they may seem to come out of nowhere, they are actually triggered by micro strains and injuries in the spine, usually incurred unknowingly over time. Your body’s natural reaction to these injuries is inflammation which irritates nearby nerves which in turn causes muscles to contract and spasm.


Another potential cause of muscle spasms is herniated, bulging or degenerated discs. If a damaged or degenerated disc touches or pinches a nearby nerve root, the result is pain and your body may attempt to immobilize the area by involuntarily tightening the surrounding muscles and as a result painful muscle spasms are likely to occur.


Other causes of muscle spasms include structural imbalances, lack of exercise, too much exercise, or dehydration.


If you suddenly find yourself suffering from back spasms, treat the affected area with ice packs for 20 minutes every 2 or 3 hours. If the spasms do not subside within the first 72 ours, start applying heat to the area. The ice helps decrease inflammation/swelling and the heat encourages blood flow which carries nutrients to help the area heal.


If the spasms persist, decompression of the spine may be your best option. Decompression works to reverse the process that created the damage that leads to the spasms in the first place. If the spasms are in your lower back, the DDS 300 or DDS 500 decompression back brace is an affordable and highly effective way of achieving decompression.


Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin can help as well. Also, don’t hesitate to combine the suggested therapies. A multi-therapy approach generally gets better and faster results.


Of course the best treatment for muscle spasms is to not get them in the first place. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to prevent is to stay in good shape by exercising, stretching and strengthening your muscles. If you have not exercised in a while start slow to avoid the very problem you are trying to prevent. Using a fitness coach is highly recommended as well.


Sciatica 101

If you are one of the millions of Americans who suffers from Sciatica, you know all too well how it can negatively affect your life. But what is Sciatica? How is it diagnosed? Can it be healed?


What is Sciatica?

Many folks confuse sciatica to be a diagnosis. It’s not. It’s a symptom of a different problem. But finding the problem can be…well, a problem. Think of it this way: You pull out a string of Christmas lights to put on your tree. You plug it in to be sure they work…but they don’t. So you check the fuse. It’s good. Now what? You systematically start looking at each bulb to find the one that is missing or burned out. It’s a painstaking process of hit and miss. That’s the same kind of problem doctors are facing—albeit much more intricate and critical—when they are trying to pinpoint the cause of sciatica.


Finding the source of sciatica can be difficult at best because it can be caused by a number of different conditions anywhere along the roots of the five sciatic nerves. The roots stem from the lumbar and sacral nerve lines which string down the spine in the L4 to the S3 vertebrae regions. Just about anything can go wrong in that area and cause sciatica to manifest itself in your buttocks, leg, knee or foot. You’ll know it when it occurs because it hurts! But moderate to severe pain is not the only challenge. Numbness, tingling, pins and needles and muscle weakness are signs of sciatica as well.


The most common culprit behind sciatica is nerve pinching. Nerves can get pinched in a variety of ways ranging from lumbar misalignment, a sacroiliac joint misalignment, Piriformis syndrome, greater Trochanteric Bursitis and most commonly, disc herniation.


How is Sciatica Diagnosed?

The standard protocol no matter what kind of doctor is consulted is for an examination to be performed first.  If the sciatica does not extend below the knee, it is less likely that it is due to a disc problem, and it’s more likely that it’s due to a lumbar misalignment, a sacroiliac joint misalignment, Piriformis syndrome or Greater Trochanteric Bursitis. If on the other hand the sciatica does extend below the knee, it is somewhat more likely that it is due to a disc lesion. 


Once the examination is performed the next steps differ depending on what type of doctor is doing the examining. If it’s a chiropractor, it is most likely that after the examination he will take an x-ray to rule out any kind of pathological process (such as bone cancer), and then treat the patient with chiropractic adjustments and physiotherapy.  If the patient does not respond favorably within a week or two to this conservative approach, then the doctor will request pre-authorization from the insurance company for an MRI.  It is unlikely that an insurance company will approve an MRI until after conservative treatment has been tried first and failed.


If however the patient is complaining of neurological symptoms such as numbness in the leg or weakness of any of the muscles of the leg, particularly the inability to walk on their heels (a condition called foot-drop), or loss of control of bowel or bladder function, then those neurological signs justify immediate approval and performance of an MRI.  To not do an MRI in such a case could constitute negligence and could jeopardize the patient’s life, if not their ability to walk normally for the rest of their life.


If the patient goes first to an MD instead of a chiropractor, it is likely that they will first be prescribed some pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication.  If that doesn’t work then they’ll prescribe physical therapy.  If the therapy doesn’t work then they’ll order an MRI.  Unless of course the patient demonstrates neurological signs and symptoms in which case the same urgency exists as in the above paragraph.


It is important to note that X-rays do not show whether or not a disc is bulging or ruptured.  They only show the disc space, showing if it’s normal-sized, or thin.  If it’s thin it may or may not show signs of arthritis.  Occasionally an inflamed disc can show up on an x-ray as somewhat thicker than usual.


MRI’s and CT’s both show discs and will differentiate a normal healthy disc from an unhealthy one.  They will also show if a disc is bulged or herniated and will show how well hydrated it is.  Generally speaking, CT’s are best to show hard tissues such as bone, and MRI’s are best to show soft tissues like discs and nerves.  So if arthritis or fractures are suspected by the ordering physician, a CT is ordered.  If a disc bulge or herniation is suspected, then an MRI is ordered.  Other diseases can also show up on CT’s and MRI’s such as spinal cord tumors, bone cancer, bone abscesses, meningeoceles, etc.

Can Sciatica be cured?

The more correct question is, “Can sciatica be relieved?” Remember sciatica is a symptom not a diagnosis. So whether or not sciatica can be relieved depends on whether or not the cause of the sciatica can be fixed.


The good news is that since the most common cause of sciatica is an impinged nerve usually resulting from a herniated or bulging disc, the answer is yes: Sciatica can be relieved with a fairly high success rate depending on how the problem is addressed. Many successful tactics can be implemented by your chiropractor or MD. They range from spinal decompression via a decompression table or the DDS 300 lumbar decompression brace, to core muscle strengthening, stretches, yoga and acupuncture on the more conservative end. In the most extreme of cases, surgery may be recommended…however only as a last resort.


If the diagnosis is something other than a disc problem, the treatments can vary quite a bit…more than can be covered in this article.



The cause of sciatica can be very hard to diagnose. If you or a loved one is suffering, definitely seek help. Visit your chiropractor or MD, based on your preference. To do nothing may cause irreversible damage that may affect your ability to walk. Rest assured, help is out there. Relief is within reach.


Spondylosis vs. Spondylolisthesis

Spondylosis and spondylolisthesis are two medical words that sound the somewhat the same, but mean different things. They both pertain to unhealthy or unnatural conditions of the spine. The root of both words is Sponylos, which is the Greek word for vertebra.

Spondylosis is the more difficult of the two words to pinpoint to a succinct definition. That is because different doctors use it to define a range of different covering such conditions as facet joint osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease. Though the diagnosis of spondylosis will clear the way for the patient to obtain a prescription for pain killers or decompression bracing, if the pain persists a further diagnosis may be needed to pinpoint the specific source of the pain.

By the age of around 40 our spines begin to undergo chemical changes and start to show signs of wear and tear. The most susceptible portion of our spines is the soft tissue such as the cartilage tissue that lines the facet joints and our discs. As these changes occur, spondylosis sets in. Degenerative disc disease can allow for the slight shifting of vertebra which can result in discomfort and pain if the vertebra bone shifts enough to touch or pinch a nearby nerve root.

Also, the thinning and drying of discs as a result of degenerative disc disease can cause abnormal movement within the facet joins which makes the cartilage lining a facet joint to wear away leaving bone to grind together causing inflammation, stiffness, bone spurs and overall pain.

Spondylolisthesis on the other hand is quite a specific diagnosis referring to the distinct forward displacement of a vertebra. This can occur over time as an unequal pressures are placed on a spine (such as with poor posture) or it can occur due to sudden blunt trauma such as from an auto accident or a fall. It can also be caused by a congenital birth defect.

Depending on the degree to which the vertebrae have slipped, someone with Spondylolisthesis may not even know he/she has it…if the slippage is minor. More extreme cases can lead to shooting pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and even loss of bladder or bowel control.  

Treatments for spondylosis and spondylolisthesis are similar. Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs and spinal decompression using a decompression lumbar brace are among the most effective.

If you are suffering from low back pain don't delay seeing your doctor. Catching eihter of these conditions early on is the key to a quick recovery.


Neck Pain Causes and Treatment

Your neck is a vital yet vulnerable body part that is especially prone to pain and injury from accidents, competitive sports, and heavy lifting.


Any injury that places stress or pressure on your neck has the potential to cause neck pain. General causes of neck injury include car wrecks (particularly rear-impact collisions), slips and falls, heavy lifting, repetitive tasks such as assembly work or computer work, impact sports like football, horseback riding and hockey.


Depending on the type of injury you experience, damage or strain to your neck may result in neck pain as well as headache, shoulder pain, and numbness or tingling in the arms and legs.


More specific types of injuries that lead to neck pain include:

  • Whiplash. Whiplash which is usually due to an accident that causes your head to move around violently, is thought to be the most common type of neck injury. In whiplash, damage to the soft tissues in your neck, including muscles, ligaments, and nerves, can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as neck pain and stiffness, headache, dizziness, and tingling, numbness, or weakness in your neck and limbs.
  • Repetitive strain. Poor posture or maintaining an awkward position while working at the computer, sleeping on an inadequate pillow, or reading in bed can cause the muscles in your neck to become strained. Over time, this muscle strain can lead to neck pain.
  • Sprains and strains. Certain injuries, especially sports-related injuries, may cause muscle strains and ligament sprains in the neck. This type of injury usually results in neck pain that is aggravated by activity. With rest and anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen and naproxen, neck sprains and strains usually heal over time.
  • Nerve pinch injury. Another common sports-related injury that can result in neck pain is a nerve pinch injury, also known as a "stinger" or "burner" injury. A pinched or compromised nerve in the neck can produce sharp, shooting sensations in the neck and arms. Pinched nerve symptoms typically go away fairly quickly.
  • Disk injury. If an injury, such as heavy lifting, results in damage to a vertebral disk, nerves in the neck may become irritated, causing pain to travel from the neck into the legs.
  • Vertebral fracture. Some injuries can cause a vertebra in your neck to fracture, or break. This type of neck injury is always a medical emergency since a spinal fracture can damage the spinal cord, leading to paralysis or even death.
  • Spinal cord damage. A neck injury may result in spinal cord damage if the accident is severe enough to disrupt the vertebral bones designed to protect the spinal cord. Since the spinal cord is made up of essential nerve elements, spinal cord injuries can cause partial or complete paralysis, and even death. Car accidents, sports-related injuries, and diving injuries can all damage the spinal cord.

Fortunately there is an effective solution for decompression issues within the neck: The DDS CerviTrac decompression cervical traction collar. The CerviTrac uses vertical air chambers that expand vertically when inflated after the collar is put on the neck. This puts the neck into traction which takes the pressure off the discs and other material. This allows nerves that were being pinched or irritated to be freed of the irritation. The result is a reduction in pain, numbness and tingling.


It only takes a second to injure your neck, but it can take months or years to regain function, if at all. Paying attention to these neck injury prevention tips can make all the difference and save you from a lot of pain and problems not to mention cost you a lot of money and lost productivity. But if you should injure you neck the use of a decompression collar may be your saving grace.


Aging and Back Pain

Of all the factors that can contribute to low back pain, the number one cause is the one none of us can do anything about: Aging.

As we get older our backs, just like all other areas of our body, simply begin to wear out.

But why do some people seem to live their entire lives without any significant back pain while others are all but crippled by it?

It has a lot to do with genetics and preventative maintenance. Although there may be some new biotechnology emerging that will allow future generations to manipulate the genetic flaws that lead to back problems, for the purposes of this article we will focus only on the preventative maintenance…and what you can do to alleviate the pain once it starts.

It starts with an understanding of our backs. Our spines consists of individual stacked bones called vertebrae that are held together by thousands of muscles the smallest of which is the size of a small pinky nail. These muscles are connected to the vertebrae via tendons. In between the vertebrae are individual discs that act as shock absorbers cushioning your movements and allowing your spine to bend and twist while keeping your vertebrae from touch/rubbing on each other.

Over time these discs can deteriorate. The deterioration process can be greatly accelerated by factors such as poor diet, smoking, excess weight, prior injury and bad posture. Eating healthy, staying fit and not smoking are all things you can do to keep nutrient rich blood flowing to your discs which can greatly slow or even stop the deterioration process.

If you are one of the unlucky ones that is already experiencing chronic (extended) low back pain or sciatic pain there are a few things you can do. Of course traditional Western Medicine dictates that you see your doctor, which may eventually lead to you getting an X-ray or an MRI to help determine the cause of the pain. From there you will likely be prescribed a pain killer. If pain persists you may end up getting an epidural shot. Last resort may be surgery.

A proven and very effective non-Western Medicine approach is decompression therapy. This is an all-natural approach to relieving the gravitational stresses and pressures being put on your discs. It is that stress and pressure that can force discs to either shrink in mass (degenerative disc disease) or bulge and/or herniate which can result in nearby nerves being pinched.

Discs that have deteriorated can get relief by reducing the amount of gravitational pressure put on them. As they are decompressed, fluids return to the discs and a healing environment is produced.

Discs that have herniated or are bulging are able to move back into their natural spaces between the vertebrae. This is called distraction. When discs distract they no longer touch/pinch/irritate nearby nerves…which is what is causing the pain to begin with.

Decompression can best be achieved by wearing a decompression brace such as the DDS 300 or DDS 500. These braces provide lumber decompression on the go.They are proven and effective at releiving low back pain for many.

Aging doesn’t have to be painful. Do what you can now to prevent low back pain and have a healthy spine. If back pain sets in, consider all your options…including decompression. 

Posture and Back Pain

Poor posture can feel good, more comfortable and be a lot easier to maintain than good posture. For this reason many Americans find themselves engaging in this bad habit. And like many bad habits, bad posture can be a hard one to break. Yet not doing so can eventually lead to some serious and painful spinal problems down the road such as tens muscles, spinal alignment problems and overall muscle fatigue.

First, let’s identify some common poor posture habits.

  • Slouching and hunching the shoulders forward while standing or sitting
  • Sitting or standing up “too straight” by pushing the small of your back forward too much. (This is called lordosis or swayback)
  • Sliding forward on the seat of a chair creating a position that is to some degree half-sitting-half-lying
  • Uneven shoulder heights (generally caused by repeatedly carrying something heavy on one side of the body)
  • Sleeping in a position that compromises good posture. (This can be exacerbated by a mattress that does not provide good support)

Now that we have covered what bad posture is, let’s talk about how to correct it. First things first: correcting bad posture is not easy. It takes persistence. You will feel awkward and you may even tire of the positions. This is normal. But the rewards of your efforts will be significant in the form of relief from back pain and/or the avoidance of the pain to begin with.

  • When sitting in a seat such as a car or office chair that has lumbar support and form fitting design to it, be sure your back is aligned against the back of the seat. Avoid slouching or leaning forward
  • Avoid long-term sitting in non-ergonomically designed chairs. If you must be in such a chair more than 20 minutes at a time, be sure to stand up and take breaks. Stretch your back if needed.
  • When sitting at a desk, your arms should be flexed at a 75 to 90 degree angle at the elbows and keep your shoulders straight. Adjust your office chair up or down if this is not the case. Also, make sure your knees are even with your hips, or slightly higher and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • When standing, keep your feet shoulder-width apart with most of your weight on the balls of your feet, not on your heels. Do not lock your knees.
  • Keep your head level and square with your shoulders upright
  • If standing for a long period of time and you are unable to move about, you can offset the prolonged stress to your spine by rocking back and forth from the balls of your feet to your heels. Also switch your weight distribution from left leg to right leg to center quite often.
  • When lifting an item, always bend at the knees, not the waist. This forces you to use your large leg muscles to do most of the work as opposed to your vulnerable back muscles.
  • Carry heavy objects near the center of the chest. When carrying bags/purses switch shoulders/arms often.
  • For sleep, use a mattress that fits your preference. If a particular mattress causes back pain, try one slightly more firm or softer. Although most experts agree, a firmer mattress is better; your body will dictate which is best for you.
  • If you prefer sleeping on your side, a thin pillow placed between the legs will help keep the spine aligned.


Teaching Your Doctor

Here in America we tend to hold anyone with the initials M.D. after their name in very high esteem…and rightfully so. After all, the amount of schooling and learning they went through to get to where they are is nothing short of admirable. And the complexity of the subject matter they have gained expertise on is quite…well, complex!


However, just because a doctor is a doctor does not mean he or she is beyond human…a human who can make mistakes, hold biases, have misunderstandings and struggle to keep up with the latest technology, developments and discoveries.


For this reason it is advisable that while we approach our doctors with a high degree of respect, we maintain a healthy amount of caution when it comes to taking advice on treatments and/or procedures they suggest.


This is especially true when it comes to low back pain. It is fairly common knowledge in the professional medical community that discovering the precise source of back pain is tricky at best and almost impossible at worst. Of course certain causes of back pain are easier to pinpoint than others (such as a fractured vertebrae). But as a whole, the complexity of the human spine is so astounding and it plays such an incredible role in our everyday lives that when it becomes diseased or injured the associated pain it can cause can bring one’s life to a halt. Should you find yourself in just such a situation, arming yourself with knowledge before heading to the doctor can reduce your fear and anxiety and help you make confident decisions and even suggestions to your doctor that he or she may not have considered or thought of.


Case in point: Though spinal decompression has gained a lot of traction (pun intended) in the last decade, it is still not considered to be an “accepted” treatment modality by the main stream medical industry. More and more doctors are open to “allowing” their patients to try decompression, but decompression of the lumbar and thoracic areas of the spine are not taught in main stream medical schools and are not generally covered by insurances including Medicare. (Oddly enough, spinal decompression is accepted as a viable treatment for the cervical spine [neck]). Despite its lack of official acceptance, evidence of decompression’s effectiveness, particularly lumbar decompression, keeps mounting. Thus the gradual growth in open mindedness with doctors allowing and sometimes even encouraging their patients to treat themselves with any kind of spinal decompression.   


If your doctor is supportive of decompression therapy, great! If not, you may find it necessary to push for decompression as an option and an alternative to pain medication and surgery. Most doctors, whether for or against decompression, will at least know what decompression therapy is. They may not know, however, that of the three main approaches to decompression (decompression tables at chiropractors offices, in-home inversion tables and—the latest breakthrough and ever more popular—decompression bracing such as the DDS 300 and the DDS 500.) The DDS 500 is the only option that is medically coded and therefore eligible for reimbursement through Medicare and most private insurances. To get the reimbursement you will need to start with a prescription…and for that reason you may need to educate your doctor on exactly what the DDS 500 is. Should you happen to be uninsured or wish to bypass the red tape and extended process of getting your prescription and submitting for reimbursement, you can opt for the retail version of the DDS 500 called the DDS 300 for $299.

The Dark Side of Prescription Pain Killers

It was not much after 4 pm on a Thursday when it began. My roommate of 5 months—a girl with home I had developed a close friendship—suddenly became ill. It started with the normal feelings of nausea one would associate with the onset of the flu. But it didn’t stop there. Nausea worsened and was joined by cold and hot sweats, convulsions, a body-wide feeling of extreme discomfort, pain and misery. The word dying best describes the state of the body at this stage, and the thought of suicide was happily entertained. Anything to put an end to the suffering.


Little did I know but Jennifer was going through withdrawals from Percocet. She had run out of the month’s prescription her doctor had been giving her for the last 10 months for back pain. Jennifer liked the Percocet. To her it provided more than just pain relief. She liked the way the pills made her feel—aloof, disconnected and unaffected by everyday stresses and emotional ups and downs. Over the course of the 10 months she had developed a severe addiction to them and an escalating need to take more and more due to the tolerance her body was building against them. That need culminated in running out 5 days early on that Thursday in September. Unfortunately, Jennifer’s story is all to familiar with that of thousands and thousands for others.


The US government breaks drugs into five different classes called schedules based on the drug’s potential for abuse measured against the drugs therapeutic benefits. Heroin, cocaine, LSD, etc. are class I narcotics. They have great potential for addiction and abuse with zero therapeutic benefits.


Percocet, Vicoden, Oxycodone and many other popular opiate-based prescription pain killers fall into the class II category. They offer therapeutic benefit but carry a rather high risk of addiction and abuse. Low-dose Codeine and hydrocodone-based opioids fall into the class III category. Darvon and Talwin are of the mildest opioid based pain killers and they fall into the class IV category. Aspirin, regular strength Tylenol and Ibuprofen are covered in the class V category.


It is primarily within the class II category that lays the one of the greatest paradoxes of modern medicine. Unsuspecting and under informed chronic pain sufferers unknowingly begin a path on a road that often leads down a rabbit hole of the worst kind. Operating on the pretense that their doctor would never steer them wrong, patients gladly accept the beginning (often low) dose prescriptions to opiate-based pain killers. Unfortunately for many like Jennifer, that rabbit hole is absolute hell.


One patient posted this on an online blog. “I have been on Percocet for 4 months for a herniated disk.  I was taking half a day, then one a day, then up to 6 a day. Then I started having awful side effects.  My back pain got worse; my tongue was swelling some, and had stomach pain too.  …last night however, I woke up drenched in cold sweat.  …I am trying to get off these myself, and want to know what I am going to end up going through. …This is terrible, and I don't wish this on anyone.”


Another blogger writes “I know I am addicted to pain pills.  I usually get 100 Lortab and 60 20m Oxycontin that are supposed to last me six weeks. I always go through them before that though and I think my doctor is getting ready to cut me off. …Isn't this sad?  But you know what is even sadder I will not give up these pills.  …My family has no clue I am addicted and I am for sure not going to tell them.”


As if being addicted to pain pills isn’t bad enough, there comes a point when your doctor is likely to turn on you. In an all-too-typical scenario, your body builds up a tolerance to the pain meds making is so you require more or stronger doses. The only place to get stronger doses is from your doctor, who will oblige up to a point. Once that point is reached he/she will refer you out to a pain specialists who is able to give you higher doses. Eventually even the higher doses are not enough. At this point many patients are told there is nothing else that can be done…and in fact may even be shunned or looked down upon by their doctor and friends and relatives because of their addiction…an addiction our revered medical professionals instigated and perpetuated. At this point the doctor may refer you out to a rehab center. Unfortunately way too many turn to the streets to feed their addiction and get their pain pills illegally. The pain of detoxing is just way too much to bear. That or they simply love how they feel while on the pain drugs.


Pain killers are a blessing and a curse. They are exactly what many patients need to be able to function day to day until the true source of the pain can be addressed. But the risk of addiction is very high and the potential side effects are long.


The best thing one who suffers from pain can do is, if at all possible, find the source of the pain and fix it. For some, such as terminal cancer patients, this may not be possible and a cocktail of pain killers may be their saving grace until they pass on. But for those who suffer from other ailments…such a back or neck pain, the prognosis is much brighter. In both cases decompression or traction bracing such as the DDS 300 and the DDS MAX cervical traction collar have proven to be the saving grace for thousands of individuals. Study our site here to learn more about each and how it they can save you from a trip down the rabbit hole courtesy of pain killers like oxycodone (brand names: Percodan, Endodan, Roxiprin, Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet and OxyContin), hydrocodone (brand names: Anexsia, Docodid, Hycodan, Hycomine, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Tussionex, Vicoden), meperdine (brand name: Demerol) hydromorphone (brand name Dilaudid) and propexphene (brand name Darvon).


Degenerative Disc Disease: A Royal Pain

As we age our bodies undergo many pathological changes, unfortunately the majority of which are not for the better. It’s called aging and none of us can escape it. From stiffer joints to slower recovery after an injury to unexplained aches and pains, our bodies are simply not programmed to stay vibrant forever. And due to the sheer number of nerves with which it intertwines, when it comes to the spine the tolls of the natural aging process can be more painful that most other body parts.


There are many age-related problems that can arise within any given locality of the spine. This article will focus on our spine’s natural shock absorbers. Unfortunately when a problem arises in one or more of the 23 discs in your spine, the pain can be excruciating.


Whether young or old, a disc can bulge or herniate due to injury. The problems and pain caused by such an injury can be significant. However with age even seemingly healthy discs can begin to deteriorate and lead to a whole slew of similarly painful problems. Such disc deterioration is referred to as Degenerative Disc Disease, or DDD.

When a disc begins to degenerate several negative pathological changes are at play. One of the biggest culprits is fibrocartilage which is very similar to scar tissue. Whether the disc was previously injured or not, with age fibrocartilage can slowly begin to replace the disc’s jelly-like nucleus. In comparison to the nucleus, this cartilage is not very soft and does not provide much cushion. Another problem can arise in the annulus fibrosis, or the outer shell of the disc. With age this shell can become more brittle and is prone to crack. Once cracked the jelly-like nucleus may seep out into unchartered territory causing nerve irritation and other issues. Additionally, this disc now missing some or all of its “cushioning” is unable to fulfill its proper role.  


Even without herniation, a disc can still lose its nucleus as it ages as the very cells themselves shrink and even die off. As a disc’s core “shrinks” the fibrous shell can prolapsed or fold over…causing much of the same problems and pain associated with a herniated disc. Related problems can occur in the vertebrae themselves such as bone growth/spurs on the adjacent vertebrae walls, partial dislocation of the vertebrae joints and the narrowing of the passage ways for nerves.


In severe cases surgery may be the best answer for any one of these DDD-caused or related conditions. However, a much less intrusive option should always be sought after and considered. In many cases a degenerated disc can regain some of its youthful characteristics simply by relieving the weight bearing forces that have been working against the discs for its lifetime. Such relief can be achieved via traditional decompression therapy—which is administered by a licensed decompression therapist using a computer-driven decompression machine. Decompression is basically a targeted stretching of the spine. Such therapy allows the discs to regain some of their original anatomical properties.


Individuals who suffer from DDD within the lower back (lumbar region) or in the neck area (cervical region) have an additional decompression option to consider. A very effective lumbar decompression brace called the DDS 300 can be worn at home as needed. A similar brace is available for the neck. It’s called the DDS MAX. DDS stands for Disc Disease Solutions, the namesake of the company behind the two products. They both work using pneumatic vertical air chambers that expand in length as they are inflated after being adorned. As they expand they “stretch” the related spine area creating the decompression. Patients can wear the brace at night or during the day as need—the back brace up to 4 hrs at a time and the neck brace up to 30 min at a time.


In addition to decompression therapy, and unequivocally the BEST thing you can do to not only stave off DDD from occurring in the first place but to help relieve the painful effects of the condition is exercise. Stronger core back muscles keep the pressure off the discs in the first place and help to dramatically prolong the effects of any decompression therapy.


No matter your age one thing is for sure, you can’t stop the pathological changes that occur as you get older. If you or a loved one is currently suffering from DDD, there are several viable options for you to consider in your quest to find relief and healing. 

Defining Disc Problems

Slipped Disc, Bulging Disc, Herniated Disc, Degenerative Disc, Prolapsed Disc, Sequestrated Disc—What’s the Difference?

If you or a loved one is suffering from back chronic low back pain it may be caused by a disc that has in some way been compromised due to injury or age/normal wear and tear.


It can be quite confusion for someone who is just learning about all the challenges and conditions of a compromised disc since there are several different types of problems. Below is each of the most common conditions labeled and explained. But first it is helpful to understand the disc itself.


A simple analogy that will help you understand the disc is to compare it to a jelly donut. If a sudden weight or pressure is placed on a jelly donut, then the inner filling oozes out as a result of the pressure. Although this is a relatively simple analogy, a herniated or bulging disc is quite similar to this.


The intervertebral disc has a number of outer fibrous rings (annulus fibrosus) that surround and provide support to the inner gel-like disc material known as the nucleous pulposus. When there is a tear in these outer fibrous rings of tissue, the inner nuclear material can now ooze out and may protrude or bulge into the channel where the nerve lies, resulting in painful pressure on the nerve root or spinal cord itself.


This happens in stages and each stage has a different name.


Bulging Disc

A bulging disc is where the nucleus is pushing on the fiber shell, but has not yet broken through. But because of the pressure, the shell may be pushed onto a nearby nerve, causing pain.


Herniated Disc

In a true herniation there has been a complete tear in the outer fibrous walls of the disc and the inner nuclear gel now escapes and puts pressure on the nerve root or spinal cord.


Sequestered Disc

This is the most severe form of disc herniation. Sequestration occurs when the nucleus becomes completely separated from the disc.



Disc degeneration generally occurs in middle aged and older patients and is the result of prolonged abuse including bad posture, mal nutrition and even disease. A degenerated disc is one that has lost mass mainly due to lack of hydration.


No matter the degree to which a disc is compromised, like most parts of the body it can heal if given the proper healing environment. Since the most common reason for a disc to become bulging, herniated or sequestered is the pressure placed on them from the above and below vertebrae (either by sudden impact/accident )

The Cycle of Pain

The North American Spine Society has a helpful brochure titled Back Pain and Emotional Distress which helps back pain sufferers understand how their pain can affect their emotional and psychological well being. The text of the brochure follows. It important to note the possible role of the DDS 500 in helping not only with pain but with improved emotions due to decreased pain, and increase in the probability of a pain free life/recovery and the patient’s ability to avoid surgery and pain medication.


Common Reactions to Back Pain

Four out of five adults will experience an episode of significant back pain sometime during their life. Not surprisingly, back pain is one of the problems most often seen by health care providers. Fortunately, the majority of patients with back pain will successfully recover and return to normal social and work activities within 2-4 months, often without treatment.


In 1979, the major professional organization specializing in pain—the International Association for the study of Pain—introduced the most widely used definition of pain: “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential damage, or described in terms of such damage.” This pain is a complex experience that includes both physical and psychological factors.

It is quite normal to have emotional reactions to acute back pain. These reactions can include fear, anxiety and worry about what the pain means, how long it will last and how much it will interfere with activities of daily living.  Though it’s normal to avoid activity that causes pain, complete inactivity is ill-advised. Rather, it is important to take an active role in managing pain by participating in physician-guided activities. There are now accepted clinical guidelines for management of acute back pain (by definition, within the first 10 weeks of pain) and its associated stress. These guidelines emphasize:

  • Addressing patients’ fears and misconceptions about back pain

  • Providing a reasonable explanation for the pain as well as an expected outcome

  • Empowering the patient to resume/restore normal activities of daily living through simple prescribed exercises and graded activity.

  • This should be supplemented, when necessary, by complementary treatments such as analgesic medications, manual therapy and/or physical therapy for symptomatic relief.

Questions You Need to Ask

In order to minimize emotional distress, it is important to ask your health care provider questions about your back pain so you do not leave the office uncertain or anxious. Understanding your pain will help decrease your anxiety. Keep in mind that, if your pain lasts more than 2-4 months (which is usually considered a normal healing time for most back problems), your condition may become chronic. Chronic pain can be associated with even greater psychological distress. During the acute period, feelings of helplessness, stress and even anger towards your health care provider (for not relieving your pain) may occur.


In order to help allay this distress, you need to be sure that your health care provider is attending to all of your important physical and psychological needs. You and your health care provider should do the following:

  • You should express your concerns about your pain symptoms. It is normal for patients to fear serious disease or disability. Be certain that your health care provider addresses your fears through appropriate medical evaluation and explanation.

  • Be certain that your health care provider fully explains what is being looked for or ruled out during these evaluations and tests, and make sure you get the results in terms you can understand.

  • If your health care provider recommends staying active, be certain that he or she discusses with you how to stay active safely.

  • Inform your health care provider of any functional difficulties your pain is causing (eg, problems with bending, lifting, etc.) and identify with him or her ways to overcome these difficulties. Also have your health care provider address any problems you have performing your normal work activities.

  • The information you receive about your diagnosis and prognosis should be clear to you. Make sure you understand the natural progression of back pain, what “improvement” can be expected and when it is likely to occur.

  • Whenever any recommendations are made, be sure that you or your health care provider writes them down so you can review them after leaving the office.

All of these recommendations are intended to reduce the emotional concerns and stress most patients experience with pain. If you are not satisfied with the treatment and explanations you receive, consider getting a second opinion from another health care provider. Anxiety and stress can actually increase your pain and reduce your pain coping skills.


Relationship between Stress and Pain

It is important to remember that there is a dynamic relationship between your state of mind (eg, stress level) and your physical condition (eg, pain). Pain can cause stress, which causes more pain, which causes more stress, and so on. The more chronic this vicious cycle becomes, the more likely your emotional distress will increase.

This cycle can be very difficult to break. Emotional suffering can lead to loss of sleep, inability to work as well as feeling irritable and helpless about what can be done. You may feel desperate and attempt to relieve the pain at any cost including the use of invasive medical procedures. Although invasive approaches may be beneficial for some conditions (such as a herniated disc), often they can be avoided if stress and pain are managed at an early point in time.


Education and reassurance from your health care provider goes a long way in preventing or relieving a great deal of stress and anxiety. You also need to be proactive about your condition and treatment. These naturally occurring feelings of anxiety and stress may cloud your judgment.


Your goal is to avoid getting into a chronic pain cycle. Reassurance from your health care provider that the pain is only temporary can go a long way to help you avoid becoming preoccupied with pain, and prevent unnecessary worry about the symptoms.


Psychological Interventions for Back Pain

Fortunately, there are a number of psychological therapies that have been successfully used in the management of pain and anxiety. These include stress management, relaxation training, biofeedback, hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy (a method to reduce feelings of doom and helplessness). There are also medications available to help with sleep problems, anxiety and depression. Such comprehensive pain management programs, when integrated with your medical care, have proven to be quite successful.


Your health care provider can refer you to a psychological management program if it is appropriate. Participation in such a program does not mean the pain is “all in your head” - it is meant to teach you methods to cope with and control the pain. Remember, pain is a complex experience that includes a close interaction of physical and psychological factors! But together, you and your health care provider can help you manage and overcome your pain.


© 2004-2009 North American Spine Society


8 Ways Gravitaional Pressure can Wreak Havoc on our Spines

When it comes to the health and longevity of our spines, next to blunt force trauma, there is no greater enemy than gravity.


There are 8 ways gravity can wreak havoc on our spines.

  1. Bulging Disc

  2. Herniated Disc

  3. Degenerated Disc

  4. Sciatica

  5. Spondylosis

  6. Spondylolisthesis

  7. Facet Syndrome

  8. Spinal Stenosis

Let’s take a look at each one.


Bulging Disc

Discs are like shock absorbers for our spine. There is one situated between each of our vertebrae. They are what allow our spines to flex in all directions while keeping each vertebra from grinding on the one just above or below it. Each disc is made up of a shell called an annulus fibrosus which surrounds a jelly like substance in the middle called a nucleus pulposus. They have often been compared to a jelly-filled doughnut…and just like with a jelly-filled doughnut, if too much pressure is applied from the top and bottom, the jelly nucleus will press against the shell until eventually the shell breaks.


Unlike the dough shell of a jelly-filled doughnut, which is not very flexible and quite dry and crumply, the annulus fibrosus is rather tough and flexible by comparison…more like a bladder. As pressure from the weight of the body above builds on the disc and the nucleus pushes on the wall of the shell, the wall will actually flex outward quite a ways before breaking. This is called a bulging disc. When the bulge protrudes far enough in the direction of one of the many nerves that go up and down your spine it can begin to irritate or pinch that nerve. This result is pain.


Herniated Disc

Eventually, with enough pressure applied on it, the nucleus of a disc will cause the wall of the disc to burst. When it does the nucleus will seep out into unchartered territory where it can cause irritation and pinching of a nerve causing pain.


Degenerated Disc

Triggered by the constant onset of pressure (gravity) and gradual decrease of nutrient-carrying blood flow (age, smoking, poor health), over time a disc can become degenerated. A degenerated disc is much like a worn out couch cushion which can be visibly seen to have shrunk in height and mass. Also called degenerated disc disease or degenerative disc disorder, a degenerated disc is one that becomes hardened with fibrocartilage. This hardening can cause the disc to crack more easily and lose its overall height and flexibility.



When a bulging, herniated or degenerated disc irritates or pinches your sciatic nerve you have a condition known as sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest single nerve in the human body. Originating in the lower spine, it runs through the buttock and down the leg ending in the foot. While sciatica sufferers may feel the pain in the buttock, leg or foot, the irritation or pinching of the nerve actually occurs in the lower back.


Spondylosis describes overall pain and spine degeneration and is often diagnosed prior to a more pinpointed diagnosis of degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis (arthritis) for example. When diagnosed with Spondylosis, one should then ask what is causing the Spondylosis.



Spondylolisthesis is a condition where one of your vertebrae slips forward or backward in relation to the vertebrae just above or below it.


Facet Syndrome

Facet joints are found on each vertebra in the spine. Their main function is to provide stability especially when it comes to rotation. Facet joints are lined with cartilage which allow them to glide easily as we move. Over time this cartilage can wear down, and the more pressure applied on them (weight/gravity) the quicker they may wear.


Spinal Stenosis

Generally said, spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the open spaces within your spine. Stenosis can be caused by bulging or herniated discs, bone spurs, thickening ligaments, deterioration of facet joints, cysts, tumors or arthritis.


Each of these symptoms can benefit from a reduction in pressure as caused by gravity. Decompression of the lumbar and cervical spine as generated by the DDS 500 lumbar back brace or the DDS MAX cervical traction collar can produce this reduction in pressure which in the medical realms is called a decrease in axial loading.


As the spine is decompressed, the various components that make up the spine are given the best opportunity to return to their natural physiology and health. The result is the reduction or elimination of pain.

Aging and Back Pain

Just because you are getting old does not mean you have to suffer from low back pain. Though it is true that as we age our bodies slowly deteriorate on the cellular level, a healthy lifestyle, diet and some alternative approaches to common ailments can often mean the difference between spending your twilight years in a state of suffering or in a state of rest and relaxation.

One of the first areas of the human body to show signs of aging is the lower back. As a result of weakened trunk (abdomen, lower back) muscles, more and more pressure is allowed to be put on our lumber spine. That, coupled with decreased nutrient-carrying blood flow—due to poor diet, smoking and general ageing—tissues and bone in the lumbar spine become more susceptible to injury and quickened deterioration.   

No matter your age, exercise can make a huge difference in your lower back. Simply strengthening your core muscles can greatly offset the amount of pressure on your spine. Prolonged gravitational pressure can cause many problems within the spine ranging from degenerative disc disease to stenosis and even facet joint osteoarthritis which is cause by the breakdown of cartilage.

Another option to help offset gravity is the DDS 300 decompression back brace. Designed specifically to provide a constant, gentle lift to your spine with a distractive force of up to 111 lbs of pressure, the DDS 300 allows all your spinal tissue (discs, cartilage, bones) the chance to rehabilitate without the hindrance of force/pressure. Even the discs, cartilage and bones in a spine of someone 80 years old or older can benefit from decompression. No matter the age, cells in the body can regenerate if given the chance. The regernation process may be a bit slowed in older individuals, but as long as blood can reach the cells and the cell is able to conduct electricity, repairs can be made.

Begin exercising today to strengthen your core muscles and get your blood flowing. Also Try the DDS 300 and feel the difference it makes.  



Acupuncture and Back Pain

When you are in severe pain, you will do just about anything to find relief, and often you begin to entertain alternative ideas and approaches. Acupuncture is one of those alternative approaches.


If you are one of the majority of Americans who have not experienced it, your vision of acupuncture is likely relegated to the image of a human pin cushion. But what exactly do all those “pins” do?


The basis of how acupuncture works was established over 2,000 years ago in China. The primary function of acupuncture is to regulate the circulation of blood and vital energy (called qi) and letting excess qi escape via meridians. Meridians can be compared to rivers and streams and qi can be compared to the actual water in the river and streams. The flow of qi through the meridians (14 of them by modern acupuncturists’ standards) can become blocked or damned much like water in a stream. Acupuncture is the process of removing those blockages and restoring flow by penetrating the blockages with the needle. The hole created with the needle begins to let enough qi to begin to flow that the force of the qi, over time, wears down/blows out the blockage much like allowing a breach in a dam or blockage in a stream or river to persist. Eventually the force of the water will clear the entire blockage.


Although the analogy is somewhat simplistic, it is the approach that is taught still to this day to students of acupuncture. That is: Find the blockage, isolate it and clear it. Layers of sophistication have been added in modern times including depth of needling, direction, type of metal the needle is made of (steel, silver, gold).


So that’s all fine and dandy, but does it really work? And what about the scientifically proven facts like diseases are caused by microorganisms, metabolic failures, changes to DNA and/or the breakdown of the immune system?


While modern science has caused proponents to reexamine the theory behind acupuncture, it has not been able to eliminate it as a viable treatment. Just the opposite in fact.


Modern studies have shown that acupuncture stimulates one or more of the signaling systems. This can increase the rate of healing which, in the best case scenario, might be sufficient to cure a disease, or at the very least might only reduce its impact and alleviate symptoms. Observed clinical effects of acupuncture are consistent with these findings. Signaling systems run primarily run alongside and coincide with nerve channels which have been shown to not only transmit signals but they also emit a variety of biochemical that influence other cells in the body. It is also connected to the adrenal gland which affect the hormonal system and indirectly every cell and system within the body.


Accordingly, acupuncture is seen to affect certain responsive parts of the nervous system, producing a “needling sensation” and setting off a biochemical cascade which enhances healing.


Despite this modern insight into how acupuncture works, it does not explain why the acupuncture points are laid out along the traditional meridian lines and how the meridian points are connected to neural channels. Acupuncturists have, however, identified certain sets of points which seem to be mapped to the whole body as well as certain zones of treatment (for example, on the scalp or on the hand) that correspond to large areas of the body. The new focus is on finding effective points and zones for various disorders with the goal of getting biochemical responses as opposed to focusing solely on regulating qi. There is no doubt, however, that the two approaches overlap in some way.


Acupuncture can help alleviate low back pain to some extent, but if the pain is caused by one of the known, scientifically proven, causes such as disease (as in degenerative disc disease) or a metabolic failures (as in a crushed, herniated or otherwise compromised disc), acupuncture will not be successful at permanently relieving the associated pain until the cause of the pain is addressed.


Treating the cause of lower back pain is where the DDS 300 and DDS 500 excel by decompressing the spine allowing discs which are pinching nerves to distract back to their natural spots. Once this occurs, acupuncture may prove to be quite effective in the healing and maintenance process.


Acute Low Back Pain

Acute low back pain with or without sciatica is one of the most common health problems in the United States and is the leading cause of disability for folks under 45 years old. The cost of evaluating and treating acute back pain runs into billions of dollars annually, not including time lost from work.


Due to the prevalence and ever increasing costs of low back pain, many studies have been conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services as well as many individual states that have seen their worker comp claims skyrocket in recent years.


One result from these studies is that the majority of low back pain incidents are temporary and benign and do not warrant any extreme action such as MRI’s or surgery. Most such patient are back to their normal routines and activities within 30 days.


However, there are still many whose acute (short term) low back pain persists and becomes chronic (long term). It is the job of your doctor to determine which of the two categories you fall under and there are some common indications they look for to help them make the determination, even if you are still in the acute stage (before 30 days). They include the following:


  1. If you have had recent trauma to the lumbar region

  2. Unexplained weight loss

  3. Unexplained fever

  4. Immunosuppression

  5. History of cancer

  6. IV drug use

  7. Prolonged use of corticosteroids (class of chemicals that include the steroid hormones that are produced in the adrenal cortex of vertebrates.)

  8. Osteoporosis

  9. You are over 70 years old

  10. Focal neurologic deficit

  11. Low back pain persists greater than 6 weeks

X-rays are recommended when any of the above red flags are present. If there is a suspicion of cancer or infection is present in the X-rays, then further imaging may be required.


The challenge for doctors is to decide when to order the X-rays and furthermore, when to order CT or MRI scans. The general consensus has been developed over the last couple of decades is that MRIs and CTs have been overused and that low back pain can and often does go away on its own within 6 weeks or so of it first onset. 


They need to be sure that the low back pain is not a serious issue such as cancer or infection without causing undue/unjust expenses to the patient. If, however, the low back pain does not subside in 6 weeks then X-rays, MRIs or CT scans are likely to be ordered.


To further complicate the issue, it has been observed that MRIs and CTs can show signs of slight disc and spine abnormalities even if there is no pain present or other red flag symptoms. In the past two decades this has led to many unnecessary treatments, particularly surgery such as discectomy.


If you are suffering from newly onset back pain the best thing you can do is see a doctor to rule out any serious issues such as infection or cancer, and then rest and wait. If the pain persists beyond 4 to 6 weeks you and your doctor should investigate further using and MRI and other tools. Also consider nontraditional remedies such as stretching, yoga, mild exercise and decompression via decompression back brace such as the DDS 300 or DDS 500 or an inversion table. 

What People are Saying

"I have not had a sleepless night since about a week after I started wearing the DDS back brace."  -Jim Gillespie, Kansas City, MO

"Wearing the DDS back brace gave me so much immediate relief I couldn't believe it. I was astonished that after wearing it only 2 hours I would get 8 hours of relief!"  -Terri Gigilotti, Physical Therapist, Medford, MA

"I have been without pain from the day I put the DDS back brace on over three months ago. To say my life has improved since then would be an understatement. I invest one hour in the evening wearing it. I get out of bed in the morning like a normal person. I can even lie on my stomach while sleeping. There is no amount of money I wouldn’t have paid for this relief. If you suffer from lower back pain, I’d give DDS a try if I were you. Good Luck!" -Richard Theriault, APICS and CPIM certified eletrical engineer at ITT Exelis, Van Nuys, CA.

The DDS 300 treats the CAUSE of your pain. Other braces only treat the SYMPTOM of pain.

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