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Clinical Chiropractic » Back Pain

Passive Distraction Devices: Who Wins in the Stretch?

Distraction of the spine may have therapeutic value for a variety of spinal dysfunctions. Accordingly, various methods have been marketed for inducing distraction of the spine, ranging from gravity boots to computer-controlled devices with continuously monitored biofeedback.

There is little information about such devices that prove any measurable effect, other than the anecdotal evidence provided by the manufacturer or distributor.

This article reviews two passive distraction devices. Each device was applied to a different group of six male and six female participants, using a stradiometer to measure the participants' sitting height in millimeters. A series of distraction tests were run on the participants, involving a Rola Stretcher and a True Back II. A foam block, molded to represent the True Back II device, was used only in comparison of the True Back II device. Supine rest positioning was used in comparison for each distraction device.

Results from these tests showed that ten minutes of hyperextension induced a significant, but temporary, height increase after both extension devices were used. The temporary increase in sitting height after using the stretching devices was significant compared with that after lying supine, or with use of the molded foam block.

Conclusion: The True Back II and the Rola Stretcher appear to temporarily lengthen the spine after 10 minutes of use. The lengthening effect appears stronger for women than men, especially with the Rola Stretcher.

The funding for this study was provided by the manufacturer of the Rola Stretcher. The two groups of subjects may not have been large enough or similar enough in age and other characteristics to draw a conclusion as to which device is superior in making seated millimeter height changes.

DeVocht JW, Pope MH, Magnusson M, et al. Biomechanic evaluation of the Rola Stretcher as a passive distraction device. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2000:23(4), pp 252-257.
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