Shaped like a curved, contoured board, VacuPractor is an affordable, chiropractor-recommended device that uses suction to safely stretch and increase blood flow to back muscles, thereby relieving compression, spasms, and pain.
Specifically, the website explains that the device utilizes outward pull on the lower curvature of the back to stop the inflammation cascade, increase the clearances between vertebra for better nerve function, and slow—and even reverse—the onset of lower spinal problems, without the need for medications or surgery.
VacuPractor can be used anywhere; all you have to do is employ it once or twice per day, for five to 15 minutes each session, to experience these benefits. The company tells us that this method is so effective that it’s even been adopted by the massage industry’s NCBTMB and accredited by Continuing Education for Massage Therapists.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, lower back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, with as much as 80 percent of the population experiencing problems at some time in their lives. If you count yourself among these numbers, can VacuPractor’s suction provide meaningful, real-world relief?
To help you find some actionable answers, we’ll outline everything we learned about the device during our research—starting with a closer look at the root of the problem.
What Causes Back Pain?
Just like foot pain, headaches, or discomfort on any other part of the body, pain simply signals that something is wrong in a specific area, but not specifically what is wrong.
But even though lower back pain or discomfort—whether intermittent or chronic—can stem from hundreds of different causes, Spine-Health tells us that it’s often the result of a torn or pulled muscle or ligament. These can be caused by a variety of activities, like a sudden movement, sports injuries, lifting a heavy object, or even poor posture.
Other common causes include a herniated lumbar disc, degenerative disc disease, joint dysfunctions (facet and sacroiliac), osteoarthritis, sciatica, and spinal stenosis, many of which are the result of the body’s inflammation cascade (otherwise known as the inflammatory response).
And as you might expect, the treatment(s) prescribed by your doctor will be based on your specific diagnosis; i.e., the root cause of your lower back pain.
Again, though, Spine-Health reports that common options include heat/ice therapy, over-the-counter pain medications, stretching and strengthening exercises, back braces, steroid injections, manual manipulation, and even surgical procedures in worst-case scenarios.
Next, let’s take a closer look at VacuPractor’s mode of action.
How Does VacuPractor’s Spinal Decompression Work?
We just talked about stretching exercises; one popular form of this is something called traction, which Healthline tells is us “the practice of slowly and gently pulling on a fractured or dislocated body part,” with the purpose of “guid[ing it] back into place and hold[ing] it steady.”
In professional settings and life-threatening situations, they report that “ropes, pulleys, and weights” are often used to accomplish this traction.
Instead, VacuPractor uses suction to deliver a specific type of traction known as nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy, which aims to relieve pressure between discs and improve the inflow of nutrients and other beneficial substances. But without a pump attached, how does it accomplish this suction?
After wetting VacuPractor with a damp cloth or spray bottle, you’ll lay on it with a bare lower back, which will trap a pocket of air between the curvature of your spine and the device.
Once this air pocket is in place, you’ll slowly raise your knees to your chest one time, which will expel the trapped air, create a vacuum, and align your spine. As you lower your feet to the floor, the vacuum will also pull down on the curvature of your lower back. Then, once your legs are straightened, your spine will lengthen and relieve any pressure on the discs.
Compared to pulling lengthwise, the manufacturer claims that the outward pull provided by VacuPractor’s suction delivers a stretching motion (similar to treating a cramp in your calf muscle by pulling up on the ball of your foot) that can relieve disc and nerve pressure, relax muscle spasms, and relieve lower back pain. And all of this while the user remains in a relaxed supine position.
Is VacuPractor Safe?
While the device is patented and registered with the FDA, VacuPractor’s owners manual indicates that you should never use the device if your back pain is severe. WebMD adds that spinal decompression therapy shouldn’t be used by those with an existing fracture, tumor, advanced osteoporosis, or metal implants in the spine.
As always, you'll want to discuss any devices you're thinking of using with your doctor, who can provide scientifically sound advice about possible side effects, based on your specific diagnosis.
How Much Does VacuPractor Cost?
Available in blue or black, how much you pay for your VacuPractor largely depended on where you decide to purchase it.
For example, a single order is priced at $89.95 directly through the company, while they also list several two-for-one offers at $59.95 (we also found them for sale on Amazon at this same price).
According to their website, you can purchase the devices through Opensky.com, Active Forever, Hayneedle, and select doctors, pain clinics, and physical therapists throughout the U.S.
If purchased directly from the manufacturer, all VacuPractors come with a 90-day money back guarantee, less S&H. In order to request one, customer support can be reached at 800-676-9320.
What Can We Learn From Online VacuPractor Customer Reviews?
On Amazon, 50+ customers had provided feedback for VacuPractor at the time of our research, giving the device an average rating of 2.5 stars. There, most compliments appeared to revolve around effective results (reduced back pain, improved flexibility, etc.), ease of use, and gentleness.
On the other hand, frequent complaints revolved around no results and difficulty maintaining suction (especially for slimmer individuals). More than one customer also complained about skin irritation caused by VacuPractor’s suction, and that it could be difficult to use if you have severe pain (as mentioned above, though, this isn’t recommended by the manufacturer).
From a company perspective, VacuPractor has been in business since 2010 and holds an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and no closed complaints, as of 9/26/17. However, it doesn’t appear the device was released until 2015 through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
According to the device’s website, founder and CEO Paul Hagen, a lifelong chronic back pain sufferer, had a vision of applying “vacuum pressure against the apex of the lower spine curve from the outside of the body” to help others find relief.
Paul also works as COO for Adroit Surgical, an investor for Kodiak Coolers, and an advisor for Grace Wellness Products and iSideSleep by Squire Sleep Systems.
Finally, while Paul never appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank TV show (although it appears they submitted a tape and made it through several screening rounds), one of the original Sharks, Kevin Harrington, provides his endorsement on the VacuPractor website.
Are There Other At-Home Spinal Decompression Devices Like VacuPractor?
If you search online for different variations of the term “home traction spinal decompression,” you’ll find there are dozens of different devices available in all different shapes, sizes, and designs, and priced anywhere between less than $20 to well over $200. How in the world can you sort through all these options and choose the best option—before handing over your hard-earned money?
Not to sound like a broken record, but if you’re experiencing lower back pain (or frequent pain of any kind), you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Only they can ask the right questions and schedule the appropriate tests to help uncover the root cause, and then to recommend appropriate treatments.
While you’re there, you can ask them about VacuPractor, and whether or not it makes sense based on your specific diagnosis.
And even if your doctor recommends spinal decompression therapy as a potentially viable treatment option, Spine-Health emphasizes that not all treatments are created equal.
For example, as long as the sessions are tailored to your problem, there are professional treatments available that could provide more pronounced results than a DIY at-home device. Again, this is where your doctor’s advice can be indispensable.
Finally, when choosing a device, here are some questions to ask that can help you differentiate between your options:
- Does the price seem in line with other similar devices?
- What are online customer reviews saying? Are they positive? Are there any common complaints?
- Is the company listed with the Better Business Bureau? If so, do they have a mostly positive rating?
- Does the company stand behind the product with a reasonable refund policy? Are there any restocking or other fees involved?
The Bottom Line About VacuPractor
According to sites like WebMD, Spine-Health, and Healthline, professionally-performed spinal decompression therapy has been shown to help relieve lower back pain for many individuals. And based on the customer reviews we encountered during our research, it seems like the mild suction-based decompression provided by VacuPractor has helped many others find at least some measure of relief.
Furthermore, at $59.95, the device seems competitively priced with many other at-home spinal decompression devices, and the company stands behind it with a 90-day refund policy, which should be more than enough time to decide if it’s right for you.
With all of this said, we didn’t encounter any indication that at-home spinal decompression is necessarily beneficial for reducing the inflammation cascade/response, as mentioned on the website. Furthermore, whether or not VacuPractor can relieve lower back pain in minutes (as is also claimed on the website) almost wholly depends on what’s causing your pain.
So, if you’re looking to maximize the value of each dollar, be sure to consult with your physician before placing any orders.