By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD As I lay down on the floor of the Maple Street offices of NGC Industries and got into the position to use Lo Bak Trax, I must confess I had a certain level of cynicism.
After all, the inventor of the portable spinal traction device, Dr. Roland Berthiaume, readily admits that people are doubtful of the device, as “it seems too good to be true.”
But once I used it to put pressure on my thighs and therefore extended my lower back, it felt good.
Berthiaume is both a long-time chiropractor and a person suffering with low back pain. He developed Lo Bak Trax in September 2009 and had a working prototype by November 2010.
In November 2011, he launched his initial marketing campaign, which included an infomercial and website.
Now, Berthiaume and his business partner Thomas Valentine are continuing their marketing of product that they are proud to note is American-made.
Traction devices are nothing new, Berthiaume explained, and a recent one includes the inversion table that flips a person upside down. The difference with the Lo Bak Trax he said is its simplicity of use. He uses it 10 minutes every night and awakens pain free.
The science behind the device is applying moderate pressure on the lower thighs while lying with one’s back flat on the floor. Although originally Berthiaume developed the technique by using his hands, the Lo Bak Trax provides the leverage needed to deliver the pressure evenly, gently stretching the lower back.
Berthiaume’s device is pending a patent and has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. He and Valentine are now hoping people give the device an opportunity, which is the real challenge. He said that 85 percent of Americans have some sort of low back pain so the market is a potentially huge one for it.
Marketing the invention is “tougher than I thought,” Berthiaume admitted.
Berthiaume said one investor was interested in the device, but insisted the partners bring the manufacturing of it to China. The investor said that if Lo Bak Trax could be sold for $49.99 everyone involved would make a lot of money.
Although he was inspired by the late and legendary pitchman Billy Mays, Berthiaume said that as much as he would like to see his invention a huge success, he wanted it to have a secondary effect: keep jobs in America.
Berthiaume looked around the country for a fabricator to create the prototype and eventually found A.G. Miller Company Inc. in Springfield. That company made the prototype but admitted they could not handle the level of production Berthiaume and Valentine needed and so the partners turned to Columbia Manufacturing Inc. in Westfield.
Both men are Springfield natives and wanted to keep the manufacturing as local as possible. That decision did come at a price, though. The cost of Lo Bak Trax is $159.95. Berthiaume believes quality construction is essential to a health related product.
Countering remarks his device looks like a bicycle handle and shouldn’t cost that much, Berthiaume searched online and discovered mountain bike handles the only bicycle handles that a person can buy separately from a bicycle cost anywhere from $129 to $500.
“What do you spend on medication and co-pays?” Berthiaume asked. “What are you really spending on your back pain?” He believes the Lo Bak Trax will help the cost of back treatment.
Valentine said that he had a Lo Bak Trax in his suitcase while flying recently. The airport security staff saw it in the x-ray of his luggage and questioned it. He demonstrated it for them and made some converts, he said with a smile.
For more information on Lo Bak Trax, go to www.lobaktrax.com.
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