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July, 2010

Decompression Equipment: Good For the Patient Is Good For You

By DCPI Staff

You've probably seen those ads for decompression equipment. The ones that promise you will double your income with very little effort on your part. Perhaps those ads have tempted you to consider adding decompression equipment to your practice.

But while the promises in these ads might be appealing, they aren't telling the whole story. We went to a group of vendor experts to get their opinions as to what chiropractors should really be considering first and foremost when looking at investing in decompression equipment. All but one of these vendors offers tables for performing decompression.

(Editor's Note: In preparing this story, Dynamic Chiropractic PracticeINSIGHTS asked a panel of industry experts how they would go about investigating decompression equipment if they were in the market to buy. Obviously, an expert allied with a particular company will tend to be biased to that company's products. Therefore, in this series, we report the comments that reflect a consensus on the general characteristics that make for a good product in order that you may make an informed decision as you do your research into a particular product or service.)

Patient Satisfaction Comes First

The truth is that the patient should always be your first priority in any consideration of decompression equipment. If the patient isn't comfortable with decompression or doesn't get the results they want, they are very likely to not refer other people to you and may, in the worst case, stop seeing you altogether. Aaron Bonano, Director of Marketing for Advanced Back Care, located in Waynesfield, Ohio, explained, "The most important consideration is whether or not the decompression table provides consistent and positive clinical results and does the decompression table have a high patient compliance rate. The treatment has to do good and feel good for the patient. If the decompression table doesn't provide great clinical results or causes low patient compliance, your biggest marketing tool (your patient) will be non-existent, and ultimately your decompression practice will suffer."

Orit Grober of Meditrac, based in Israel, is a provider of wearable cervical and lumbar spinal traction decompression units, as opposed to tables. She agreed that the patient must be the first consideration: "The three most important factors to consider when selecting therapy equipment are simplicity, patient mobility between treatments and rapid healing with fast patient results."

Look at Design

Part of patient satisfaction is making certain the equipment itself is comfortable for the patient. Let's face it, while chiropractors understand the benefits of decompression, the equipment can look quite daunting to a patient unsure about the prospect of such treatment. There are pulleys and gears and knobs that seem to do a myriad of different tasks. All of this can make a patient tense or nervous, which can defeat the purpose of decompression in the first place. As John Boren, with Lordex, based in League City, Texas, elaborated, it is relaxation that allows for the unloading of the compressive forces of gravity, which makes the decompression modality so effective.

So the question becomes how to select decompression equipment that will be the most comfortable for the patient. Geoffrey Miscoe, President and Chief Innovation Officer for Kennedy Decompression Systems (, located in Central City, Penn., explained, "Table design must consider the patients' overall comfort and must accommodate all morphologies. The table should be adjustable to allow truly comfortable prone postures that don't stress the shoulders."

Gary Huddleston, DC, of Ultra Tables/Tough Tables based in Osage Beach, Mo., agrees, tying patient comfort back into compliance. He listed many of the features to look for in design: "A decompression table absolutely needs total range of motion in order to address posterior derangements, stenosis, facet syndromes, lateral translations, and other spinal conditions. Other desirable features for a decompression table would be the ability to treat both cervical and lumbar problems. Proper, simple, and comfortable patient capture is also a prime consideration. It used to be that patient restraints were so uncomfortable, many patients actually would quit treatment."

Get the Proper Training

Of course, the other part of what to look for in decompression equipment is knowing how to use it. You can have the best-designed equipment on the market, but unless you really understand how it actually works, it's virtually meaningless. As Miscoe explained, "Choosing the right decompression system for your practice is easier than you think, but requires that you take the time to learn how to do decompression first. We ask doctors who are trying to decide on a system for their practice a very simple question: 'Did you purchase your adjusting table before you learned how to adjust? How could you possibly know what features are even relevant unless you understood your adjusting technique first?' Step one in choosing a decompression system should be taking a decompression technique course."

Bonano agrees, adding, "A doctor should also make sure a marketing, support and decompression education program is available with the purchase of the spinal decompression table. It is very important that the doctor is not just left with the table without the know-how and means necessary to get great clinical results for their patients and have a successful decompression practice."

Where Are You?

Something else to consider is where you are in your practice. Boren noted that practitioners tend to be at one of three points in their practice: "Another consideration in choosing the right table for you is to identify where you are in practice. Phase one is the new doctor. Phase two is the doctor looking for something to spice up their practice. Phase three is the doctor positioning him or herself for eventually retirement."

He added that which phase you are in will determine your needs. A new doctor is looking at cost. A doctor in the prime of their practice wants something that will turn a profit on their investment. One near retirement is looking for something that will save wear and tear on the body.

The Right Stuff

All of the discussion about decompression equipment centered back toward consideration not only of patient satisfaction but on the benefit to the practice. As Bonano explained, "Doctors who have successful decompression practices will tell you that patient referrals are the most important marketing tool for a successful decompression practice. Positive comments about you and the table you use go a long way. If you 'successfully' treat a patient with decompression therapy, you had better believe that they are going to be telling their co-workers, friends and family members about it."

Huddleston agreed, noting that it's not just the health of the patient that matters: "Make sure you purchase the right decompression table and training, because the health of your patient, and the health of your practice is riding on it."

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