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Getting Rid of That Aching Back

Avoiding the Knife


Candidates for VAX-D include those with herniated discs, degenerated discs, and sciatica, among others. More than 1,000 patients are treated with VAX-D therapy each month, according to the VAX-D Network, a group that promotes the treatment, which is available in 26 states.

Treatment usually consists of 20 daily sessions that last about 30 minutes each. Patients lie fully dressed on the table on their bellies with a pelvic harness strapped around their hips. Tension is applied through the harness as the table, which is divided into two sections, moves apart. The therapy is administered through a computerized system that applies tension followed by periods of rest. Handgrips held with elbows straight allow the patient to release the tension at any point.

"This gives the patient a lot of peace of mind because if they have any concerns, simply letting go stops the forces of traction," Naguszewski says.

Each VAX-D session costs about $150. After therapy has been completed, Naguszewski still recommends lifting no more than 50 pounds and avoiding repetitive bending, stooping, or crawling for several weeks.

Taylor says he started to feel some relief after about 40 sessions and six weeks of therapy. The numbness in his foot and thigh has disappeared. He doesn't water ski anymore, which started his back pain in the first place, and still receives treatments once a week. But he does swim, walk, ride his Harley, and can work 70-hour weeks.

"I live a normal, active life. We go to the movies. We go to parties. We got to restaurants and drive all over the country. Other than not being able to engage in active or high-impact sports, I live a full life," he says.

"Without VAX-D, I don't know where I'd be. I would probably have a bunch of steel in my spine and probably be stuck in bed someplace. I was headed there real fast."

Kimberly Sanchez is a St. Louis freelance writer and frequent contributor to WebMD. She also has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Dallas Morning News.

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