Treating Spinal Pain Without Surgery?

VAX-D therapy proves very successful for disc injuries.

Linda Dukes taught English at the same Northwest Indiana high school for 34 years. She earned a degree in English from Purdue University in nearby West Lafayette, but English wasn’t her initial major of choice. Latin was.

“I love Latin. It’s been a lifelong interest,” shares Linda, 80. “I took Latin all four years in high school and enjoyed its history. I liked learning how the Romans lived. I saw photos of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and a few years ago I traveled to Italy and visited Pompeii, which was amazing.”

I’m absolutely pain-free now and have been for quite a while.” - Linda

I’m absolutely pain-free now and have been for quite a while.” – Linda


Linda studied Latin at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, but left to get married before earning her degree. After a move to West Lafayette, she resumed her education at Purdue. There was just one problem.

“Purdue didn’t offer Latin,” Linda recounts. “So, I switched to English. That’s how I became an English teacher instead of a Latin teacher. Actually, the good Lord was looking out for me because schools quit teaching Latin 20 years ago. I would have been out of a job.”

Linda eventually found herself out of work anyway, although it was on her own accord. She took early retirement in 2002 and began spending the winter months in Florida. After two years as a snowbird, she relocated permanently.

Florida was a natural choice for her new home.

“My parents brought me down here in 1954,” Linda recalls. “They purchased land on Terra Ceia Island that I inherited in 1995. I sold that land in 2004 and bought another property. Three years ago, I sold that and moved into an independent living community, which I love. They offer lots of social activities and classes. It’s a good life.”

Unfortunately, that good life has been interrupted by ongoing health issues related to a back injury she sustained while she was still teaching. The resulting pain persisted over the years despite several surgeries.

“My back pain started in 1990 or 1991, after I fell in my classroom,” Linda details. “I was wearing heels. One of them was worn down and had lost its cap, so the metal was exposed. That foot slipped from underneath me, and I fell flat on my rump like a Raggedy Ann doll with my feet in front of me.

“A week or so later, I started experiencing incredible pain. It was intense, a 12 on a scale of one to 10. An MRI showed I had a herniated disc, and when I fell, pieces of that disc broke off and were floating in my spinal canal. When the pieces touched a nerve, I’d be in agony.”

Over the course of the next 15 years, Linda underwent back surgery three times, twice to remove dislodged pieces of disc and once to resolve issues related to spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the spinal nerves. Then last January, her back pain returned again.

“It was a stabbing pain, and it was pretty bad, an eight out of 10,” Linda reveals. “It was especially bad in the morning and got a little better around noon. I was able to walk but couldn’t stand in church. Standing to recite the Apostles’ Creed at Mass was agony. The pain was mostly on my left side and shot down my left leg.” 

While prescribing a short course of steroids to help reduce inflammation, Linda’s primary care physician explained that further surgery wouldn’t alleviate her pain and recommended going to a pain management clinic. Linda flatly refused.

“I didn’t want to go to a pain clinic. I didn’t want to take opioids and stuff like that,” Linda discloses. “I thought, There’s got to be a better solution. I told the doctor that I wanted to try physical therapy, but after two courses of physical therapy, I was still in pain every morning.

“Then, I saw a copy of Florida Health Care News in the lobby of the senior living community I live in and read about Dr. Aderholdt. There’s no surgery involved with his therapy, which I thought was a good idea. I took my MRI report and went to see Dr. Aderholdt. He told me he could fix my problem.”  

Innovative Technology

Craig S. Aderholdt, DC, of Back Pain Institute of West Florida, provides the most advanced treatments for patients in severe pain. Among those treatments is VAX-D® therapy, a patented, FDA-approved medical decompression technique for alleviating pressure on the discs of the spine. 

“Linda was suffering with an extremely painful lower back condition resulting from degenerated, herniated spinal discs,” recalls Dr. Aderholdt, one of the few doctors in the country offering VAX-D. “Based on the findings of Linda’s physical exam, the results of her x-ray, her medical history and symptoms, I recommended VAX-D therapy for her.”

VAX-D, or vertebral axial decompression, is not a traction device, Dr. Aderholdt stresses. It works differently than traction and achieves substantially better results.

“For many patients, chiropractic adjustments alone can relieve the pain,” he discloses. “But for select people with conditions such as sciatica or herniated, bulging or degenerated discs, VAX-D therapy has proven extremely successful.”

VAX-D therapy is effective at alleviating low back and neck pain, the doctor says. It also helps with numbness, tingling and pain that radiates down the arms and legs. Because Linda had intense low back pain that radiated down her left leg, she was considered an excellent candidate.

During a VAX-D session, the patient relaxes on a comfortable, computer-controlled table and is secured by a pelvic belt or patented cervical collar, depending on the area being treated. Carefully specified tension and pressure changes guide the use of VAX-D, allowing the therapist to focus decompression at the exact level of dysfunction. Most sessions last about a half-hour.

The computer enables the table to make subtle but targeted movements that create a powerful vacuum within the disc space. This vacuum gently draws the disc back to its proper orientation, pulling nutrient-rich spinal fluid into the disc and stimulating repair cells that effectively mend the disc.

“No other treatment can create such a powerful vacuum,” Dr. Aderholdt contends. “There are imitators, but VAX-D’s vacuum effect is the most powerful. That is what makes VAX-D such a valuable tool for pain relief. Further, VAX-D doesn’t allow the muscles to contract the way other machines can. In fact, it is the only nonsurgical treatment that has been clinically proven to reduce disc pressure to negative levels.

“In my opinion, VAX-D is one of the most effective nonsurgical medical treatments for low back pain, neck pain and sciatica. This innovative technology is one more tool I can offer patients as we work toward relieving pain and maintaining the health of the lumbar and cervical spine.”

Studies show that VAX-D has been effective in treating more than 88 percent of patients, the doctor notes. Many patients report a significant reduction in back or neck pain after only a few treatments. Dr. Aderholdt emphasizes, however, that actual healing takes longer because bulging or herniated discs require a series of sessions to fully reposition.

“Some patients think they will get relief after a handful of sessions and they can just quit, but that’s not the case,” he maintains. “Patients must follow through with all of the required treatments to get the full benefit.”

Another advantage of VAX-D is that it can eliminate the need for surgery.

“Many patients with severe back or neck pain want to avoid surgery, and that is something that VAX-D allows,” Dr. Aderholdt observes. “With surgery, there is the potential for serious complications. Because VAX-D is noninvasive, those complications are avoided.”

“Absolutely Pain-Free”

After completing a full course of VAX-D therapy, Linda achieved 100 percent pain relief. 

“The VAX-D sessions were three times a week, and I was feeling much better within a couple of weeks,” Linda enthuses. “I still had some intermittent back pain once in a while, but I knew the treatment was going to work. And it did.

“I’m absolutely pain-free now and have been for quite a while. I don’t have to take any pain medication, not even Tylenol®. I can stand in church without pain. I feel so good that I don’t even think about my back anymore. It’s amazing.”

According to Linda, VAX-D treatments aren’t painful. Although she struggled at first to get comfortable on the equipment, she eventually settled in and enjoyed the sessions. 

“The toughest part was in the beginning, just getting on the table and lying on my stomach while I was in pain,” Linda elaborates. “They had pillows to help make me more comfortable, and the nurse said I could bring my own. I brought one of those neck pillows you use on airplanes, and that worked best for me. 

“The treatment itself and the stretching of my back actually felt good. Each day, I felt a little bit better. Before the therapy was over, I was feeling fine again. And now, I’m ready to jump through hoops. VAX-D therapy really worked for me.”

Evolving Distress

Kelly* loved her job as a hospital corpsman in the Navy so much that she remained in the service for 10 years. For a year and a half, she was deployed to the Persian Gulf, where she cared for injured soldiers during the Gulf War. When she finally retired from the military, she chose a slightly different career path.

“After being separated from my children for 18 months, I wanted to be more present in their lives,” shares Kelly, 56. “When I returned from the Gulf War, I didn’t want to do hands-on patient care. I learned transcription skills while working as a legal secretary and was familiar with medical terminology. I basically fell into medical transcription.”

To learn more, visit

To learn more, visit


Kelly found her tenure as a medical transcriptionist interesting and educational. It also permitted her to spend quality time with her children.

“I transcribed for hospitals all over the country in every discipline,” Kelly muses. “The job let me stay in the medical field and learn about new equipment and procedures, but it also allowed me to work from home and be there when my kids needed me.”

Kelly thrived in that profession for 25 years but was forced to retire a few years ago when pain from a back injury made it impossible to sit for long periods. Her injury occurred on a hiking trip with her parents in 2004. 

“We were stepping off a large rock, and as my father reached up for my hand, I slipped,” the Illinois native recounts. “My feet fell out from under me, and I landed on my right side. I knew my back was injured the minute it happened.”

At first, the discomfort wasn’t terrible. Over time, though, it evolved into severe nerve pain. 

“On a regular basis, my pain level sat at a crippling eight,” she details. “It was so bad that I couldn’t run anymore or ride in a car for long periods because my fingers would go numb when I drove. When I sat on the couch, it felt like my legs were full of bees because of the nerve pain. 

“Everybody’s head weighs approximately 10 pounds, but mine felt like it weighed 50 pounds. It caused the muscles in my neck and shoulders to be extremely tight. It felt like somebody was sitting on top of me. The pain was life-changing because it severely limited me, and I had always been a very healthy and active person. It was horrible to live with.”

Seeking to ease the agony — and with no desire to undergo surgery — Kelly tried pain medications as well as physical therapy, massage therapy and chiropractic treatments. Nothing helped. 

Worried that she might be facing a lifetime of pain, Kelly says she felt hopeless and depressed. But her fortunes changed in 2020 after her husband read an article about Dr. Aderholdt and VAX-D therapy in Florida Health Care News while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. He took the publication home to Kelly and said, You should try this. She agreed.

“Feels Like a Miracle”

“Kelly came to us with a very painful neck and back condition, with pain radiating into her arms and legs,” Dr. Aderholdt remembers. “She was an excellent candidate for VAX-D therapy, so I recommended it for her.”

Kelly accepted Dr. Aderholdt’s recommendation, and she’s glad she did. Not only did it allow her to avoid surgery, but it also alleviated the need for pain medications.

“I used to transcribe reports of back surgeries, and the outcomes were 50/50,” she asserts. “Some people come out of surgery feeling magically better. Others go through the trauma of surgery and get no relief from their back pain. I didn’t want to be in those circumstances, and thankfully, I’m not.”

“Thanks to VAX-D therapy, my pain level now is maybe a three, and I can get by with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. There is also a considerable difference in the discomfort in my head, and the tightness in my neck and shoulders has greatly improved. The pain relief feels like a miracle to me.”

The Great Explainer

Kelly and Linda appreciate the excellent outcomes they achieved through VAX-D therapy at Back Pain Institute of West Florida. They also appreciate the treating physician. 

“I love Dr. Aderholdt,” Kelly raves. “He explained the reasons for some of the symptoms I was experiencing, such as why I felt tingling in my legs, but only in my calves. He told me it’s because a disc in my lower back was compressing the nerve going down the side of my calves. 

“I didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out that the constant sinus pressure I had was because a cervical disc had slid to one side and onto the nerve that services my sinus cavity. Knowing the cause of my symptoms actually made me feel better. At least I understood why they were occurring. I’m so happy I found Dr. Aderholdt.” 

Linda has high praise for Dr. Aderholdt as well.

“Dr. Aderholdt is a really nice guy,” she describes. “He’s full of energy, kind words and encouragement. And he’s definitely knowledgeable. He explained everything to me as he performed the adjustments, which he did after every five VAX-D treatments. 

“He told me exactly what he was doing and how it affected the different parts of my body.

“The technician who gave me the treatments was great, very kind and encouraging. I highly recommend Dr. Aderholdt and Back Pain Institute of West Florida.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb
*Patient’s name changed at her request.
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