Turning Traction up a Notch

Turning Traction up a Notch

By Marjorie Rice

Dr. Jason Romano, a Scottsdale chiropractic physician, is offering a new twist for his patients with disc ailments—spinal decompression using a computerized DRX9000 table.

This sounds pretty space-age, but Romano brings the details down to earth.

Romano uses the DRX9000 treatments for patients who have herniated or bulging discs or degenerative disc disease, where the spine puts pressure on the disc. Traditional treatments include spinal surgery or chiropractic adjustment. Spinal decompression therapy is an alternative to those treatments.

“I look at the disc like a jelly doughnut,” Romano says. “If you put pressure on the inner part of the disc, a jelly-like substance comes out. If you can reduce the pressure, that jelly can go back in. It’s a difficult process, but in cases where I have seen pre- and post-treatment MRI reports by a radiologist, the MRI shows re-absorption of that disc material after spinal decompression, so it no longer bulged.”

Spinal decompression is traction, but with a difference. The therapy involves intermittent motorized traction calibrated specifically for the patient’s height and weight and the disc area involved. Over a series of treatments, the traction can pull the vertebra apart enough to reduce pressure on the disc, Romano says.

During therapy, the patient is fitted with a harness and lies on a table. Cushions are placed under the patient’s neck and knees, to achieve the proper position. Then Romano sets the machine to pull at a precise angle and pressure, with periods of relaxation between pulls.

Treatments usually last 30 minutes. “You feel it pull, yet there’s virtually no discomfort,” Romano says. “I’ve had patients as old as 86 on this table. Once the treatment is done, you’re a little sore because we’re doing work.” Many patients have electrotherapy, ice or some other additional treatment for soreness after the therapy, and typically they can walk out of the office and go back to work after a session.

Romano says the therapy can be an effective alternative to surgery for many patients.

“It’s important for someone to come in for a consultation, to see if we can help them,” he says. “I can tell pretty quickly whether this therapy can help them, whether they should have other chiropractic treatments and procedures, or whether they should see a surgeon.

Surgery for a bulging disc basically cuts off “that bad part,” and scar tissue forms at the site to prevent it from happening again, Romano adds. “If you have the surgery first, it presents a bit of an issue because there is scar tissue. I’m not anti-surgery—I recommend it all the time—but I recommend that patients should try the conservative measures first.”

Romano bought his Scottsdale practice just four months ago after practicing in Chicago for 20 years.

“We had the DRX9000 table for the last 10 years we were in Chicago,” he says. ““There are a few other decompression devices in Scottsdale, but to my knowledge ours is the area’s only DRX9000, which I think is the best. The treatment has been very effective for our patients who have herniated or bulging discs, or degenerative disc disease.”

Romano stresses that the therapy isn’t a cure-all for everyone. “Success varies from person to person. If someone comes in for treatments and after 10 times they say, ‘Hey, Dr. Romano, I don’t feel any better,’ I say go have the surgery.

There has been some controversy about the table and others like it, which Romano acknowledges. Criticism centers on marketing and overstated claims of successful treatment made by some practitioners.

“We have had people who don’t get better with epidurals, physical therapy, injections, surgery—nothing will work for every single patient,” he says. “But this will do no harm. It won’t cause additional damage to the disc.”

Success also depends on the patient’s involvement, Romano says. “I emphasize that it isn’t just about coming in and doing spinal decompression. You’re a partner in your healthcare. It’s important to get healed through the therapy, then exercise to strengthen your back so you’ll have fewer issues down the road.”

Romano hopes to grow his practice through use of the DRX9000, and also by expanding his massage therapy services to workers in the Airpark area. That includes chair massage, where the therapist can go onsite to treat individuals who spend much of their workday sitting in front of computer screens.

“We’re very fortunate that our massage therapist, Rolinda Teller, stayed with the practice when we purchased it,” Romano says. “We probably kept 98 percent of the practice’s existing patients after our purchase, and I give credit to Rolinda for helping us with that.”