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Posted on: Monday, 31 July 2006, 03:00 CDT

By Ady, Suzanne Kydland

Low back pain can stem from any number of causes. In fact, many patients who end up in Dr. Mark Haynes' office at the Montana Pain and Rehab Center may have already tried several treatments.

"Some have seen doctors or physical therapists," Haynes said. "Others have had MRIs and epidurals."

For a percentage of these patients, Haynes thinks he may have the answer - and it doesn't involve surgery.

Spinal decompression, he said, has been around for awhile. But recent technology is taking the theory to new levels.

Some patients arrive thinking they're going to be placed in traction, but spinal decompression is much more precise, he said.

"Over 10 years ago, NASA began to notice an unexpected result of space travel astronauts who left with back pain would come back without it," Haynes said. "During the anti-gravity state of the mission there were decompressive forces on the intervertebral discs, and back pain was relieved.

"All the pressure is taken off your spine and discs. Even better - and this is the key - a negative pressure is created."

Haynes said the negative pressure actually sucked herniated material back into the disc so it could heal.

Two years ago, Haynes, who has been in practice as a chiropractor for a decade, heard about a piece of medical equipment called the DRX9000. Newly approved by the Federal Drug Administration and on the market, the DRX9000 was a non-invasive treatment to help patients suffering from herniated or bulging discs, sciatica, facet syndromes or degenerative disc disease. Some cases of failed back surgery can be assisted as well.

Axiom's technology is now being used by neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, family physicians, pain specialists, and physical therapists across the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia, according to the company.

Haynes, who has been in Billings for several months after taking ownership of the Montana Pain and Rehab Center, traveled to Florida to research the product, created by a company called Axiom Worldwide. He was impressed with the DRX9000 over similar products he checked out because it had so many more components.

"Other machines were available for about half the price," he said. "But the motor on this has logarithmic pull, which can sense and monitor resistance in the body."

And Haynes was sold on the equipment's impressive success rate.

"I had patients with lower back pain who had trouble running, or even walking," he said. "Getting in and out of bed could even be a problem for some. For one woman, it was difficult to walk, sit, sleep, anything."

The DRX9000 works by using a combination of lumbar positioning and varying the degree and intensity of force. The patient lies back on the equipment wearing a harness around the pelvis. The knees are angled up and also placed in a harness.

"Basically, it gently pulls the spinal column apart to help decompress a particular disc. Then that disc can settle back in where it should be," Haynes explained.

Because the system has emergency stop switches for the patient and the physic" to terminate treatment immediately - an FDA requirement - any possible injuries are avoided.

Haynes said the goal of the DRX9000 treatment is no pain for the patient. He said initially, a patient might be sore after the first few visits if they have scar tissue from a previous injury.

The basic protocol for new DRX9000 patients, Haynes said, is six weeks. He typically sees the person for five half-hour appointments a week for the first two weeks, three times a week for two weeks and twice a week for the last couple of weeks.

"I usually see people after the six weeks," Haynes said. "Once a month for about six months."

Although many health insurance companies are not yet covering the spinal decompression treatments, Haynes is now working with worker's comprehension insurance and thinks the treatments are becoming a more popular option for patients with lower back pain, The average cost of treatments is well below that of surgery.

As far as he knows, Haynes has the only DRX9000 in Billings, and he's had patients come from neighboring states specifically for the treatment

"I can't help 100 percent of the patients I get," he said. "But I've only had a couple of people this wasn't successful with. Normally, patients will know if it's going to work or not by the end of the second week."

In the future, Haynes hopes to get additional medical equipment to treat not just the lower back, but the upper back and neck as well.

Details

For more information about the DRX9000 visit www.axiomworldwide.com. For more about the Montana Pain and Rehab Center, go to www.montanapainandrehab.com.