Following a decade of clinically monitoring the therapeutic applications of gravity dependent self operated axial traction (distraction) devices in use in conjunction with ongoing treatment and prevention programs at the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Minneapolis, a redesign of existing systems and their associated clinical programs began in 1987.
William Stumpf and Associates of Minneapolis (recognized leaders in the field of ergonomic seating) assisted in a research program designed to advance the technology of controlled spine distraction. Laboratory testing confirmed, once again, again the basic clinical observations regarding the ability of the rib cage to safely and effectively distract the lumbar spine in a controlled manner. Shown above is a prototype of what then became the LTX-3000 lumbar rehabilitation system.
The effectiveness of this method of traction (distraction) was further demonstrated in additional biomechanical research studies performed at the University of Minnesota in the early 1990s and subsequently published in the peer-reviewed journal SPINE (Janke AW et al: The Biomechanics if Gravity-Dependent Traction of the Lumbar Spine Spine 22(3): 253-260, 1997). Following the developmental studies the LTX-3000 lumbar system became incorporated into a comprehensive outpatient clinical rehabilitation program designed by Spinal Designs International . This “Low Back Rehabilitation Program” is now in operation in a number of locations in the United States. The educational content of the program has been maintained and expanded, from the original Sister Kenny Institute model developed in 1976.
Fail-Safe Spinal Distraction
The first study published in regard to spinal genomic disorders made clear that was extremely important, particularly in young athletes, in whom genomic spinal disease was diagnosed (i.e. juvenile discogenic disease) to initiate effective treatment and prevention programs as soon as possible.
Often the initial clue to the presence of genomic problems in offspring is provided by the parents history of chronic spine problems and their need for spine surgery. A high quality Magnetic Resonant Imaging (MRI) scan is, today, the most effective single diagnostic study available to determine genomically related spine problems. “Screening” MRIs, costing a fraction of the cost of a complete study, are now available at some centers. In the future DNA testing will clearly become the screening examination of choice.
There can be no greater sadness than for a young athlete to be told that they have a “degenerated spine” and can not possibly follow their dreams in sports. Such advice typically reflects ignorance as there are now effective preventive and conservative management programs available.
Athletes need to learn spine care and match this to the liabilities inherent in each sport. Of the over 1,000 patients initially monitored in the Low Back Rehabilitation program in Minneapolis since 1993 92.9% of cases upon follow-up reported a good-to-excellent experience.
In the fast paced society which we have created for ourselves the expression “time is money” has become a dictum. While many of us spend our time taking care of others we often neglect ourselves. It is now possible to safely and regularly enhance spine health utilizing distraction while also working at a desk or sitting in front of a computer.
Comprehensive educational and instructional programs promoting spine health presently exist and are cost-effective. They are however typically under-appreciated and under-utilized. Many times, because of ignorance a patient may be directed into invasive therapies, or even surgery, before safe and sensible therapies are recommended.
An important area of application of non-invasive rehabilitation programs is after recovery from spine surgery. All too often the spine specialist’s interest in the patient ends when the sutures are removed. Patients need to know enough to inquire about continuing spine health maintenance programs. Physician behavior, in this regard, is unlikely to change until patients start to asking the right questions.
As the know-how and practical application increases in using the rib cage for spine support it becomes increasingly evident that a number of important other potential applications of this technology are possible but require greater attention. Some of these applications fall into a number of different disciplines:
Aviation – By having to sit for long periods of time in bucket style seats, which have changed little in the past century, Pilot Seating have experienced inordinately high disability related to low back injuries. LTX technology has shown itself to be of value not only in being able to decrease loading on the spine but also to apply more uniform body support. This particularly important in crash survival and in surviving ejection in a ejection seat without sustaining serious back injuries.
Wheelchairs – Those individuals who are wheel-chair dependent often experience decubitus ulcerations because of the continued pressure on abnormal tissue. Wheelchairs with built-in LTX technology allow the rib cage to substitute for the buttocks and sacral spine.
Mobile Robotic Transportation Devices – The future of transportation for quadriplegic and paraplegic individuals will be robotic travel devices utilizing LTX technology in the cockpit. These devices allow control from hand controls or mouth-directed wands (or even the spoken word).