Upstate News

August 20, 2007
Doretta Royer 315 464-4833

Study to test non-surgical approach to relieve lower back pain, improve disc healing

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A clinical study to test the effectiveness of a non-surgical approach to resolve or manage chronic low back pain (LPB) is under way at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

The purpose of the study is to determine if a therapeutic protocol using computer-assisted decompression technology will improve the health of the disc, leading to reduced disc protrusion, less pain and increased activity levels for individuals with lower back pain.

According to John Finkenstadt, M.D., few treatment approaches specifically attempt to resolve the causes that lead to a high probability of recurrence of LBP. Finkenstadt, a research scientist in the Department of Family Medicine, is conducting the study with William D. Grant, Ed.D., a research professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine.

“Our study addresses the underlying problem of intervetebral disc lesions and degenerative disc disease, namely vertebral pressure on the vital structures of the lumber region,” said Finkenstadt. “We are using technology that is designed to expand the disc to allow it to heal and thus reduce protrusion, if any.”

The researchers are using the computer-controlled SpineMed Decompression Table. The table is void of pulleys, ropes, belts, drums or traction boxes, but rather uses a simple pelvic restraint that applies only a slight pressure against the pelvis to secure the patient to the moving section of the table.

The table consists of three segments, allowing for accurate tilting of the pelvis during traction. Through accurate tilting, the focal point of the distractive force, or the force allowing for the disc expansion, can be moved so that specific spinal segments can be targeted, eliminating the unnecessary distraction of additional segments.

The study is double blinded. Patients are assigned randomly to either a decompression treatment group or a control group. Participants in each group receive 25 treatments at the rate of five sessions per week for five weeks.

Outcomes are compared across the two groups for changes over time. For example, pain is measured using a 0-10 visual analog scale. Other assessment tools are used to measure the study participant’s physical and social activities, quality of life, functional health, depression, treatment satisfaction and pain reduction.

Each participant undergoes MRI before their first session and following the final session to measure the thickness of the disc, the extent of disc bulging and intervertebral alignment.

“No significant side effects from decompression treatment have been documented in the literature,” said Finkenstadt. “We hope that this type of treatment, using the most advanced decompression technology, will lead to more relief for patients with lower back pain.”

The study, titled “SpiDERS,” is funded through a two-year, $318,000 grant from CERT Health Sciences, LLC.

For more information about the study, contact Nicole McPeck at 315-424-0104.

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