Most of you will have seen at least one of the shopping channel advertisements for Dr Ho’s Pain Therapy System, or Dr Ho’s Physio Belt. The claims made by these commercials are incredible, and the range conditions they are said to relieve is astounding.
Let’s break this down a little bit – Essentially we’re dealing with a TENS Unit, and a back brace (inflatable, woo hoo).
TENS stands for Transcutaneous (through skin) Electrical Nerve Stimulation and has been used since 1974 for reduction of pain (though various electrostatic devices have been used for this since the 1500s). The unit Dr Ho claims to have “invented” is simply a dual channel TENS, allowing multi-site or interferential type treatment. It retails for $170-$200 and this is similarly priced to any dual channel TENS you can buy from good chemists, or if you ask your physio nicely you’ll find they’re significantly cheaper ($135 approx), and better quality.
Back braces are effective ways of reducing the exacerbation of existing back conditions by physical activity. They are effective due to two factors – compression of the abdominal contents providing a splinting force on the lumbar spine, and increased proprioception (awareness of the body) meaning better activation of supporting muscles and LESS CHANCE OF DOING SOMETHING STUPID. (Oh, and some thermal effects – you stay warmer)
The Dr Ho Physio Belt claims to be a traction treatment. In a clinical setting we lay people on their back to negate the effect of gravity compressing the spine, and apply traction of 25-40kg on the pelvis while fixing the torso to the bed. This provides adequate force to separate the vertebra, stretch facet joints and spinal ligaments and increase space for compressed nerves.
THERE IS SIMPLY NO WAY PUMPING UP A BELT CAN DO THIS.
It cannot provide enough force to lift the weight of the trunk and head from the lumbar spine. So it’s just a back brace with a pump. And it costs $180-$220 instead of the more reasonable $70-90 that a good lumbar brace will set you back.
One last point. Dr Ho is not actually a Doctor. He was a Chiropractor many years ago, but has not been registered for some time. For that matter, anyone who calls themselves Doctor without a PhD or a MBBS (which is an honorary doctorate) is lying to you (includes Chiropractors and Osteopaths).