Are Scoliosis Traction Chairs Effective in Treating Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis

Scoliosis Traction Chairs are Experimental

In use since about 2005 with the CLEAR institute, Scoliosis Traction Chairs have been used for treating children with Adolescent Idiopathic scoliosis (AIS).  The principle behind their use is to elongate the spine by constraining the child to the chair using a series of straps placed at the apices of the child’s scoliosis curves and then using a harness placed under the jaw and occiput to distract or pull the child’s spine upward.  This combination of elongation and lateral traction  has been touted by the CLEAR institute as an effective treatment for AIS.  However, this device has little evidence to support its use.  I can find no research on that evaluates it effectiveness.  All the research to support its use has been published in training manuals for the CLEAR institute meaning it has not been evaluated by other practitioners outside of the CLEAR institute and it’s effectiveness has only been shown in case reports from the CLEAR institute, not in a true blinded study of its use.

Research Study Shows that Scoliosis Traction Chairs may Worsen Scoliosis 

A study published in the Journal Clinics and Practice 2014; volume 4:642 traction chair study link by Stitzel, shows that the use of the Scoliosis Traction Chair may actually worsen scoliosis.  This study is a retrospective case review of 15 cases treated over 6 months.  The study shows that approximately 74% of the patients in the study had their scoliosis worsen over the 6 months of treatment.  This study was actually performed by former instructors of the CLEAR institute who are concerned that the use of the traction chair has not been studied thoroughly.  This study was refuted by the developers of the traction chair, who stated that proper protocols weren’t followed, however, the authors of the studies were former instructors for the CLEAR institute and had actually certified others in the  use of the device, so I would deduce that the proper protocols were followed.  Here are the links to the rebuttals.  Dr Woggon rebuttalDr Morningstar refutes.  Researchers who developed the SEAS physiotherapy method, and have over 184 studies on the topic of AIS, commented on the above study and actually called the use of the Scoliosis Traction Chair dangerous based on the results comments by Donzelli.

Comments on CLEAR method

I am often asked about the CLEAR institute by people coming to our facility for consultation about scoliosis treatment.  My response is always look at the amount of literature published in the scientific journals.  When I search in for studies on the CLEAR method I find 2.  Therefore in my opinion there is insufficient information to say wether the CLEAR method is effective or not.  I would implore the CLEAR institute to publish more information in the scientific literature.  It appears from the above information that some of their therapy methods may not be supported as effective.  It us up to the consumer to make their best judgements.