Devices for Back Pain Relief – Part One
There are hundreds of devices on the market intended to provide back pain relief, with variable rates of success for each and every one. Whilst this review looks at some of the most popular ones, it is by no means exhaustive and we welcome comments on both those listed here` and other devices designed for back and neck pain conditions such as spinal stenosis.
Spine-Worx – What is it?
This popular product comes with the warning that it should not be used by children, as their spines are still developing. Many adults, however, appear to have achieved excellent relief from pain by frequent use of this device which was designed by a chiropractor to apply controlled pressure to the spinal vertebrae. The idea is that by lying on the two padded and shaped rails the vertebrae are subtly encouraged to regain functional alignment with concomitant benefits for back pain relief and improved mobility.
Does Spine-Worx Work?
Spine-Worx used to be called Spine Align and has been around for several years;. It has some serious advocates of its benefits, including those who use it in between chiropractic treatments to accentuate the work done in those sessions. The limitations of Spine-Worx appear to be its usefulness as realignment therapy for the vertebrae only, rather than for the whole spine (i.e. it is not directly beneficial for the cervical spine, but may help indirectly by realigning the rest of the back).
Using Spine-Worx after a hot bath or massage may be advisable so that the muscles are already relaxed, as this will decrease any discomfort felt from the device and increase its benefits. Recommended us is fifteen minutes each day, with some finding that this reduces their need for chiropractic therapy. Some may find it initially uncomfortable and hard to use as it necessitates centering the spine on the device and relaxing whilst in quite a difficult position (reading the instructions is definitely a good idea with Spine-Worx). Persistence seems to be the key element running through all the reviews of this product, with benefits for those who keep at it.
Back Magic Multi-Level Adjustable Block – What is it?
Purported by the manufacturers to relieve back pain, increase mobility and flexibility, and enhance posture, this is an adjustable and portable device that appears simple to use, but in actual fact may be hard to achieve good results with. Considered by some to be similar to the Lumbar Extender favoured by many sports physicians, it is designed to aid relaxation and stretch out the back muscles whilst realigning the back in just two five minute sessions a day.
Does it Work?
Many do find relief through the use of the Back Magic Multi-Level Adjustable Block although there is thought to be a flaw in the design in reference to the slope of the device as it is higher in the upper back rather than the lower back (lumbar spine) even in the most advanced adjustable position. To correct for this some simply use the device upside down, making the gradient therefore steeper in the lower back and stretching the muscles. This is probably of minimal concern for most using the device as it is only those wanting the fullest stretch who will encounter the issue.
A further concern with this product, which applies to most of these back pain relief devices, is that it is one size only, despite its ‘fully adjustable’ description. This means that those with a smaller frame may find its use problematic, and even counter-productive, as the stretching effect will not target the correct areas of the spine. However, for the majority it appears to be more beneficial than the Spine-Worx for immediate relief, with effects wearing off within a week or so after ceasing use of the Back Magic. Spine-Worx has a more subtle effect which can actually correct postural issues rather than having an acute, but short-lived, palliative action.
Back2Life – What is it?
Designed to reduce lower back stress, prevent degeneration in the lower spine, and provide back pain relief, the Back2Life is a motorized device that gently massages the lower back with the intention of returning it to correct alignment. By lying flat on the back with the knees bent over the Back2Life device the lower back vertebrae are put through an Anterior-Posterior Pelvic Tilt, which can improve blood flow to the area, thereby supplying nutrients, and oxygen to the cells, and facilitate the removal of metabolic waste products that may be causing damage to the lumbar spinal structures.
Does it Work?
Back2Life may be a good product for those who are unable to use the Spine-Worx or Back Magic devices which can be initially uncomfortable. Instead, this gives a gentle lower back massage without much effort being required by the patient. Recommended by the manufacturer as safe for anyone who can have physiotherapy, it may be beneficial for anyone who has not had recent back surgery for spinal stenosis, is pregnant, has central pressure on the spinal cord, or listhesis spinal misalignment. With significant research undertaken by university physicians on behalf of the company to ensure its safety and effectiveness, the Back2Life appears to be a safe, gentle, and effective way to relieve back pain, improve mobility and reduce pressure on the spinal structures.
Inversion Tables – What are they?
With so many different inversion tables around it is important to find one which is designed specifically for back pain relief. There are many that are designed for improving the abdominal muscles (which may in itself aid back pain), but these are predominantly training devices, not back pain relief products. An inversion table is simply a modern take on an age-old technique of hanging upside down in order to allow the spine to relax and realign. Clearly, in most cases, swinging from the door-frame by one’s ankles is neither safer nor practical, which is where inversion tables become useful.
The benefits of inversion tables are thought to include spinal decompression and resultant circulatory and lymphatic flow improvements, easing of stress by muscle and tendon relaxation, and reduction in pressure on the nerves and discs of the spine, with benefits for bulging discs and herniations.
Do they Work?
There are, as mentioned, numerous inversion tables on the market. Companies such as Teeter, and IronMan produce the more expensive models likely to be used in a therapist’s office, but these are a little out of the price range of most consumers. The more economical versions can be just as effective but may require some bespoke additions or adjustments by the user as foot-padding, height measurements, and ease of use can be lacking, easily worn away, and tricky to master, respectively.
The more top-line models are usually considered more comfortable and easier to adjust the inversion speed and level with minimal movements rather than the athletic efforts seemingly required by some to move, adjust, or return to an upright position in the lower-end models. All in all the tables do appear effective at relaxing the spine, providing back pain relief, and improving mobility with regular sessions at home. It is worth, however, having a session with a therapist to learn how to use the table prior to setting one up and going on it alone. If more than one person in the house is using it, ensure that the height settings are adjusted each time, as otherwise the table will not be balanced and is liable to swing forcibly which may cause injury.
The SpoonkRider – What is it?
One of the quirkier products around that purport to provide relief from back pain, the SpoonkRider has many names in many countries (it’s very popular in Scandinavia!) and is, at a very basic level, an acupressure mat. Excellent for relief of cervical arthritis and pain from a bulging disc in the lumbar spine and with many fans, this seemingly simple way of having an easy acupressure session, working on similar principles to acupuncture, can be extremely effective at relieving spinal stenosis pain.
With 6200 acupressure points provided by small plastic spikes on circular discs on a fabric, padded, mat, the SpoonkRider gives the user the option of using acupressure at home without having to visit an actual therapist. Versatile enough to use for the neck, full back, lower back, abdomen, and even for headache relief and wrist relief, the SpoonkRider is both an energizing and a relaxation product depending on the length of use. For sessions under twenty minutes, such as standing on it when brushing one’s teeth, it can give a quick boost to circulation and energy. It is unlikely to correct any specific alignment problems in the user, but can help with pain relief and increased circulation, and thereby nutrients, oxygen, and waste elimination, to and from the spinal region.
Anything over twenty minutes can improve relaxation, with some people even choosing to sleep on the mat for hours at a time. The safety restrictions on the mat include the general advice regarding use during pregnancy, and that those with specific disorders such as blood pressure, and depression do not use the mat as a substitute for usual therapeutic practice without consulting their physician first. Children often enjoy the relaxation benefits of the SpoonkRider, and those over seven can use the mat under supervision (they may require some padding, even just wearing a t-shirt, as their skin may be a little more sensitive than in adults). Although there is very little risk of scratching the skin, those with blood clotting disorders should exercise caution with this product.
These are just a few of the available products for back pain relief, and in the next spinal stenosis blog we will cover further devices including NuBax Trio, BackJoy Core, and TENS Units.