4001 Lake Otis Pkwy, ste. 201
Anchorage, Alaska 99508
Tel (907) 561-1711
email: IPTalaska@gmail.com
Vax D

Vertebral Axial Decompression (VAX D) is an effective non-surgical treatment for low back and sciatic pain used at Integrative Physical Therapy in Anchorage, Alaska. In the simplest terms, VAX-D is a procedure that decompresses, or reduces pressure within the discs and other joints in your lower back. In order to understand more fully what VAX-D treatments do, you need a little understanding about the anatomy of the structures that make up your lower back.

The spine is the column of bones that runs down the center of your back. These bones are called “vertebrae”, and there are 24 of them. The discs, which give so many of us trouble, are between the vertebrae. Simply put, a disc is a pad that acts as a shock absorber between each of the vertebrae.

The outside wall of each disc is called the “annulus”, it is made up of cartilage, and is like the cartilage at the end of your nose, it is quite firm. The inside of the disc, however, is quite soft. It’s called the “nucleus pulposus”. It is made up of a soft jell-like substance. Unfortunately, the outside part of cartilage of the disc is very susceptible to tearing. Sometimes little injuries cause little tears. Over time though, the outer wall of the disc may weaken and protrude out. This may be diagnosed as a disc bulge or herniation. At other times, particularly if you have major traumatic injury, the disc tears suddenly and deeply. If this tear goes all the way through the annulus, then the jell-like nucleus can actually ooze out and this is called a “ruptured disc”. In either case, whether you have a bulging disc or a herniation, the injured disc can put pressure on the spinal nerves or the spinal cord itself. This is what causes the pain that grips your back and frequently radiates down into your buttocks and legs. It is also what causes numbness, tingling and weakness in your legs.

There are many other pain generating structures in the spine as well. Facet joints can cause local or referred pain. Arthritis or degenerative disc disease can also cause pain. VAX-D can also be an effective treatment for these and even some other diagnoses. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have twice examined the VAX-D therapeutic table for safety and efficacy and have renewed its license annually since 1998.

In addition, in July 1996 an additional license was issued affirming the claim that the VAX-D therapeutic table is decompression device for the spine. In its approval letter, the FDA stated, “This therapy provides a primary treatment modality for the management of pain and disability for patients presenting with incapacitating lower back pain. It has been found to provide relief in a variety of conditions involving anatomical dysfunctions of the lumbar spine that generate localized low back pain, as well as peripheral, including patients with protruding or herniated discs, as will as those with acute facet problems. VAX-D achieves these effects through decompression of the intervertebral discs and facet joints, that is, unloading due to distraction and positioning. Because this process is patented, no other device or manufacturer can make this claim.


Four peer-reviewed studies have been completed and printed in major peer review journals. The first study was done in 1989 at the University Hospital, London, Ontario and it was conducted under the supervision of the neurosurgical department. It concluded that Vertebral Decompression showed great promise and suggested further study. The second study, and first of its kind, was carried out by neurosurgeons, G. Ramos and W. Martin, at the University of Texas Department of Neurosurgery and Radiology. The clinical findings by Ramos and Martin were astonishing in that a device had created decompression in the lumbar discs for the very first time. Their findings were published in the prestigious Journal of Neurosurgery in September 1994. The study showed the treatment was successful in 3 out of 4 patients (74%). Neurologists Dr.’s William and Robert Naguszewski along with Earl Gose, Ph.D., and a professor at the University of Illinois completed the next study in April of 1998. The study, the largest to date, was completed on 80 patients and showed 71% of the 800 patients had zero pain at the end of 20 treatments. Their conclusions were published in the Journal of Neurological Research. Interestingly enough, the new copycat decompression therapies often cite the VAX D studies when asked to provide literature supporting the effectiveness of their tables.


The treatment itself rarely hurts—but occasionally it may cause some temporary discomfort due to pre-existing muscle spasms or mobilization of inflamed structures. Improvements in systems generally occur on a gradual basis throughout the course of treatment with the rate of improvement accelerating as additional treatments are completed. Some patients experience a temporary increase in low back pain (but not leg pain) as the symptoms centralize—this is short-lived and is a good indicator for an excellent outcome. Frequently patients report significant reduction in their symptoms during or immediately after their treatment session. However this is variable and will vary from patient to patient.


Treatments must be daily, five or six days per week and are usually completed within 30-40 minutes. Most lower back conditions are resolved within 20-25 treatments. We realize time is rare commodity these days and many insurances have low yearly benefit amounts. We will make effort to get you better in the most expeditious way we can.


Yes, and no. The idea of traction was to separate the vertebrae and take pressure off the nerves. This is similar, except one big difference. Traction pulls at a set pressure, maybe in an on/off cycle like 5 minutes on and 1-2 off.. The VAX D pulls in an on/off pattern too, but what really makes it different is that the pressure is constantly being adjusted and monitored by the machine. If your muscles spasm, or you pull against it, the VAX D will automatically adjust the pressure accordingly. This makes a huge difference. The benefit is that the muscles are able to relax much more and you get a much better distraction and seperation of the spinal segments. Not only that, you achieve it with less force since the body is not fighting the machine. This is why the FDA approved it as a "decompression" device, not a traction device.


No. The VAX-D is a tool that sometimes can help speed recovery, give that little extra push to get recovery started, or help take the recovery to more completion than just manual therapy. It is a good tool but our goal is to help you recover with as little external equipment as we can. If your symptoms improve with manual techniques then there is no need for the VAX-D. As our patient your specific situation will be constantly re-evaluated and a collaborative decision will be made regarding if it should be implemented to your program or not. We do not just recommend or use it by default.


No. Pathological lesions or congenital deformities of the vertebral column that disrupt the integrity of the skeletal and/or regimental structures cannot be treated with the VAX D. You will be evaluated to be sure it is appropriate for you.

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