What is Traction?


Spinal traction, also known as spinal decompression, is a treatment that uses a pulling action to relieve pressure on the spine and its individual components.  The two basic types of traction put into practice by physiotherapists and Chiropractors is Cervical Traction (Neck traction) and Lumbar traction (lower back traction).

In this section we will talk about the different forms of traction and the types of disorders it is generally used for.

What Spinal Traction Is Known To Help

There are a few different ways our long spine can fall apart in this gravity stricken world and cause us unwanted pain and discomfort. Anything from a tight knotted muscle to a bone spur growing into a nerve root can make our lives miserable. Here are a few conditions that have hope of being treated with spinal traction:

  • Degenerative disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Facet Syndrome
  • Tight and shortened muscle and connective tissue


Depending on where this condition is in your spine the traction method used will vary. If it is located in your neck then cervical traction is applied to your neck area. If you have a condition in your lower back then lumbar traction might be appropriate.

How Spinal Traction Works


In either case of lower back or neck traction the goal is to relieve pressure on nerves, stretch soft tissues, and encourage bulging discs to go back into place.  As spinal traction is applied the spinal segments are stretched apart so that these goals are possible. As this happens the disc that was once compressed is expanded and like a sponge that is released from ones grip, it reabsorbs moisture and nutrients it needs to restore its shape and strength.

Lumbar and Cervical Traction Methods


The mode of delivering traction can either be with the hands of a trained therapist or a mechanical device. Typically more stretch and separation is achieved with the help of a machine. For the neck the devices that have been used include weight over a door while the person’s head is strapped in. The patient sits on a chair and their head is pulled upwards. Another method is a cervical collar that can be blown up to expand and stretch the head up away from the body that way. Yet another, and used by clinics, is controlled force with a pulley or pump system where the person lies horizontally in a relaxed position to have their head gently stretched away from their body. This tends to be the most effective and safe method of spinal traction.

As for lower back traction devices, the ones most used have been the inversion table that flips you upside down or the horizontal method with straps and pulley. Again the more controlled method is the best to use and it seems to be the horizontal systems.


Spinal Decompression is a non-surgical treatment option that is one of the closest to addressing the underlying structural issue. This means it not only treats the pain and discomfort, it gets down to the root cause of the pain and creates an environment that encourages healing. This is the most direct therapy that can restore your back into the shape it was once before and allow you to do the activities you enjoy doing.


Regina Rain (10 Posts)

Is driven to share her experience with overcoming debilitating and frustrating pain from poor posture habits. She works as a health care professional at her local hospital and seeing sickness and suffering in each patient drives her to promote prevention and natural remedies for better health and well-being.

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