Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
Randomized Controlled Trial
. 2010 Jul 8;11:155.
doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-11-155.

Restoration of Disk Height Through Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Is Associated With Decreased Discogenic Low Back Pain: A Retrospective Cohort Study

Free PMC article
Randomized Controlled Trial

Restoration of Disk Height Through Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Is Associated With Decreased Discogenic Low Back Pain: A Retrospective Cohort Study

Christian C Apfel et al. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. .
Free PMC article


Background: Because previous studies have suggested that motorized non-surgical spinal decompression can reduce chronic low back pain (LBP) due to disc degeneration (discogenic low back pain) and disc herniation, it has accordingly been hypothesized that the reduction of pressure on affected discs will facilitate their regeneration. The goal of this study was to determine if changes in LBP, as measured on a verbal rating scale, before and after a 6-week treatment period with non-surgical spinal decompression, correlate with changes in lumbar disc height, as measured on computed tomography (CT) scans.

Methods: A retrospective cohort study of adults with chronic LBP attributed to disc herniation and/or discogenic LBP who underwent a 6-week treatment protocol of motorized non-surgical spinal decompression via the DRX9000 with CT scans before and after treatment. The main outcomes were changes in pain as measured on a verbal rating scale from 0 to 10 during a flexion-extension range of motion evaluation and changes in disc height as measured on CT scans. Paired t-test or linear regression was used as appropriate with p < 0.05 considered to be statistically significant.

Results: We identified 30 patients with lumbar disc herniation with an average age of 65 years, body mass index of 29 kg/m2, 21 females and 9 males, and an average duration of LBP of 12.5 weeks. During treatment, low back pain decreased from 6.2 (SD 2.2) to 1.6 (2.3, p < 0.001) and disc height increased from 7.5 (1.7) mm to 8.8 (1.7) mm (p < 0.001). Increase in disc height and reduction in pain were significantly correlated (r = 0.36, p = 0.044).

Conclusions: Non-surgical spinal decompression was associated with a reduction in pain and an increase in disc height. The correlation of these variables suggests that pain reduction may be mediated, at least in part, through a restoration of disc height. A randomized controlled trial is needed to confirm these promising results.

Clinical trial registration number: NCT00828880.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Increase in disk height before and after the non-invasive spinal decompression treatment protocol.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Pain reduction before and after the non-invasive spinal decompression treatment protocol (because several lines overlap, there are less lines than subjects).
Figure 3
Figure 3
Correlation between increase in disk height and decrease in pain.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 4 articles


    1. Zhang Yg, Guo Tm, Guo X, Wu Sx. Clinical diagnosis for discogenic low back pain. Int J Biol Sci. 2009;5:647–658. - PMC - PubMed
    1. Andersson GB. Epidemiological features of chronic low back pain. Lancet. 1999;354:581–585. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(99)01312-4. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Dagenais S, Caro J, Haldeman S. A systematic review of low back pain cost of illness studies in the United States and internationally. Spine J. 2008;8:8–20. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2007.10.005. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Chou R, Huffman LH. Nonpharmacologic therapies for acute and chronic low back pain: a review of the evidence for an American Pain Society/American College of Physicians clinical practice guideline. Ann Intern Med. 2007;147:492–504. - PubMed
    1. Ramos G, Martin W. Effects of vertebral axial decompression on intradiscal pressure. J Neurosurg. 1994;81:350–353. doi: 10.3171/jns.1994.81.3.0350. - DOI - PubMed

Publication types

MeSH terms

Associated data