Inversion therapy in patients with pure single level lumbar discogenic disease: a pilot randomized trial

Manjunath Prasad, Barbara Gregson, Gerard Hargreaves, Tiernan Byrnes, Philip Winburn, Alexander David Mendelow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Backache and sciatica due to protuberant disc disease is a major cause of lost working days and health expenditure. Surgery is a well-established option in the management flowchart. There is no strong evidence proving that traction for sciatica is effective. We report a pilot prospective randomized controlled trial comparing inversion traction and physiotherapy with standard physiotherapy alone in patients awaiting lumbar disc surgery. This study sought to study the feasibility of a randomized controlled trial on the effect of inversion therapy in patients with single level lumbar discogenic disease, who had been listed for surgery. Methods: This was a single centre prospective randomized controlled trial undertaken at the Regional Neurosciences Centre, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. It was a prospective randomized controlled trial where patients awaiting surgery for pure lumbar discogenic disease within the ambit of the prestated inclusion/exclusion criteria were allocated to either physiotherapy or physiotherapy and intermittent traction with an inversion device. Post-treatment assessment made by blinded observers at 6 weeks for various outcome measures included the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) Score, Short Form 36 (SF 36), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Visual Analogue Pain Score (VAS), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) appearance and the need for surgery. Avoidance of surgery was considered a treatment success. Results: Twenty-six patients were enrolled and 24 were randomized [13 to inversion + physiotherapy and 11 to physiotherapy alone (control)]. Surgery was avoided in 10 patients (76.9%) in the inversion group, whereas it was averted in only two patients (22.2%) in the control group. Cancellation of the proposed operation was a clinical decision based on the same criteria by which the patient was listed for surgery initially. There were no significant differences in the RMDQ, SF 36, ODI, VAS or MRI results between the two groups. Conclusion: Intermittent traction with an inversion device resulted in a significant reduction in the need for surgery. A larger multicentre prospective randomized controlled trial is justified in patients with sciatica due to single level lumbar disc protrusions. Read More:
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1473-1480
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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