An Ahwatukee Foothills chiropractor is touting an alternative to back surgery that he says has had a high success rate for relieving patients’ pain.

John Boardman is the only Phoenix-area chiropractor to treat patients with a Spinal Aid machine, which relieves different types of back pain by using decompression to release pressure in targeted spots in the spine. His practice, Boardman Family Chiropractic and Spinal Aid Center, recently moved to a new Ahwatukee Foothills location.

“A lot of patients come in here, they’ve gone through physical therapy, they’ve gone through injections,” Boardman said. “A lot of patients are familiar with chiropractic care, but not spinal decompression.”

Boardman has been a chiropractor for 12 years and started using the Spinal Aid machine with patients three years ago. He said word has gotten around among chiropractors about the FDA-approved treatment, but a lot of general practitioners and patients have yet to find out about spinal decompression.

During treatments, patients wear a harness and stand against a padded table that tilts back into a lying position. The harness attaches to a machine that basically pulls and releases in intervals, using an amount of pressure tailored to each patient.

That intermittent pressure creates a vacuum that pulls material from herniated or bulging discs back into place, Boardman said, adding that his office has seen a 90 percent success rate with the Spinal Aid decompression machine, with success being defined as reducing back pain to nothing or next to it.

Back surgery success rates hover around 50 percent, as do injections to treat back pain, he said.

“(Injections) can work to relieve pain, but it doesn’t address the cause: the herniated or bulging disc,” Boardman said.

Not everyone is a candidate for the treatment – really severe cases do require back surgeries and other treatments – but for people who are candidates, spinal decompression costs less and tends to last longer than surgery, he said.

“Surgery will always be around,” Boardman said. “If I can treat the problem without surgery, all the better.”

In addition to spinal decompression, Boardman offers all the services you would expect from a chiropractor, like massage therapy and spinal correction.

Patient Jennifer Holinka, who is not a Spinal Aid patient but offered to help demonstrate the machine, said she has come to Boardman for chiropractic adjustments and massage since experiencing lower back pain related to pregnancy in August 2009.

“It’s been a lifesaver. When you’re pregnant, you’re not supposed to take any drugs. It helped alleviate the pain and discomfort,” she said.

Holinka has since recommended Boardman to co-workers, one of whom is now a spinal decompression patient.

“Dr. Boardman’s bedside manner is very nice. You’re not just a number. They really care about you,” Holinka said.

For more information about his practice or the Spinal Aid decompression machine, visit

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