The fourth day of deer hunting season last fall was good to Don Vinduska of Lincolnville and his hunting partners.
“For some reason, everybody shot a deer that evening,” Vinduska said.
As he loaded and unloaded the deer, Vinduska didn’t know six weeks of agonizing pain lay ahead.
“That’s what started the whole thing,” Vinduska said. “At that time they didn’t know it was a pinched nerve in my back. They thought it was a rotator cuff. I couldn’t use my right side much at all.”
Kevin Steele of Marion, a tire delivery driver for American Tire Distributors of Wichita, was no stranger to pain. He suffered a broken neck in high school, and for most of his adult life he’d had periodic treatments that allowed him to live an active life.
That changed about three years ago, Steele said.
“I’ve been having lower back issues to where I couldn’t hardly walk any more — chronic lower back pain,” Steele said.
Lifting and moving tires and getting in and out of the cab of his delivery truck were at times excruciating, Steele said, but the pain was magnified by the negative effect it had on his family life.
“I couldn’t do things with the kids,” Steele said. “I couldn’t walk to the park, couldn’t go to the lake fishing. No real activity with my kids here in the yard. If we went to the zoo I’d have to sit down every five to ten minutes and let them go look at exhibits.”
Both men saw doctors and tried physical therapy, but relief was elusive.
“They tried so many things, but they couldn’t get anywhere,” Vinduska said. “I’d go for four or five minutes and the pain would be so great.”
Before resorting to more invasive procedures, both of their physicians finally recommended trying an alternative therapeutic procedure.
“They decided let’s try spinal decompression before spending thousands of dollars on injections and surgeries,” Steele said.
The referrals took them to Marion chiropractor Bruce Skiles, who had recently purchased a spinal decompression system.
“They used to just be available in big cities because they were so extremely expensive,” Skiles said. He had been referring patients to treatment centers in Wichita and Salina before purchasing one.
The system consists of a bed, a harness connected to a cable, which in turn is linked to a computer-controlled motor. The system stretches the spinal column, which allows the discs between vertebrae to expand and relieves the pressure on pinched nerves, Skiles said.
“The vast majority of the problems in low backs and spines is you’re losing disc height,” Skiles said.
“This is a progressive-type traction. What it will do is traction you a little bit, then let off, traction you a little bit more, and let off,” Skiles said. The computer control module has different programs for different kinds of cervical and lumbar conditions. Skiles picks the appropriate program, and then enters additional information to tailor the treatment for individual needs.
A typical course of treatment involves 10 30-minute sessions over about three weeks, Skiles said.
“Most people have no discomfort,” Skiles said. “We’ve had some really good outcomes.”
Vinduska wasn’t “most people,” and he had a different name he jokingly used for the system.
“He put me in that big torture machine thing that stretches you out,” Vinduska said. While Vinduska was still laying on the table after his first treatment, Skiles asked him how it had been.
“God-awful horrible, I told him,” Vinduska said. Then he stood up.
“I stepped off of it, took one step forward, one step to the right, and the tears started flowing — I was pain-free,” Vinduska said. “I couldn’t talk, I was so choked up. I think I even gave him a hug.”
Skiles said the amount of Vinduska’s improvement with only one treatment was unusual. Multiple sessions are usually needed to approach that level of results.
“After one treatment he was 90 percent better,” Skiles said.
Steele’s experience was more typical, but no less dramatic.
“I was real skeptical it wasn’t going to fix my problem,” Steele said. “My insurance would not cover those sessions, because it was considered an experimental treatment.”
Compared to the cost of surgery, however, Steele thought $400 for ten sessions was worth the try. He started experiencing relief after his third visit.
“After the third session I was up and feeling good. I was up mowing the yard,” Steele said. “Within five sessions, we walked to the park, and on the way back my daughter was messing with me. My kids hadn’t seen me run in years. ‘You can’t catch me,’ she said, and she took off.
“I stayed in a dead run from Walnut Street to a block and a half past the railroad tracks. I ran for another two blocks after she quit, no back pain whatsoever,” Steele said.
“We did the 10 sessions on my back, and I’ve been more active since March than I have in five years.” Steele bought a jet ski he uses almost every other weekend, he goes camping, takes long walks, and he’s painting his house.
“I’m up and down ladders every day. I’ve needed to do this for three years, but I wasn’t going to start because I couldn’t do it,” Steele said.
Not everyone will experience benefits from spinal decompression, Skiles said. Vinduska offered an example.
“My brother was having some problems, and I recommended it to him,” Vinduska said. “It worked for me, but it did not work for him. He was all excited about it. He went three or four times, but it didn’t do anything.”
Skiles said the success stories indicate spinal decompression can be well worth the investment.
“If we can save them from having major surgery or a long term problem, it’s money well-spent,” Skiles said.