Spinal traction is a form of decompression therapy that relieves pressure on the spine. It can be performed manually or mechanically.

Spinal traction is used to treat herniated discs, sciatica, degenerative disc disease, pinched nerves, and many other back conditions.

Spinal traction stretches the spine to take pressure off compressed discs. This straightens the spine and improves the body's ability to heal itself.

Candidates

People with spinal conditions benefit from this therapy because the traction reverses the force of gravity. It is most commonly used to treat:

  • slipped discs
  • bone spurs
  • degenerative disc disease
  • herniated discs
  • facet disease
  • sciatica
  • foramina stenosis
  • pinched nerves

Spinal traction can sometimes cause pain that is worse than the original condition. Those with osteoporosis and certain types of cancer should not use traction therapy.

Spinal traction is known to cause muscle spasms. Most doctors are prepared for this to happen during or after therapy.

Spinal traction therapy can be administered manually or mechanically, depending on your needs.

Manual spinal traction

In manual spinal traction, a physical therapist uses their hands to put people in a state of traction. Then they use manual force on the joints and muscles to widen the spaces between vertebrae.

Mechanical spinal traction

In mechanical spinal traction, you will lie on a table that has special tools to stretch the spine. A physical therapist will attach a series of ropes, slings, and pulleys to your body to mechanically relieve pressure.

Spinal traction is a non-surgical way to relieve pain and correct problems in the spine. While it does have some potential side effects, spinal traction offers consistent relief for most people.

There are no long-term risks of spinal traction. Some side effects may occur during or after treatment. Many people experience muscle spasms after traction. Some have pain in the treated areas.

Spinal traction is not for everyone. A physician can determine if the risks are worth the potential rewards based on your medical history.

Before undergoing spinal traction, you must speak with your doctor to create a total-management physical therapy plan. Spinal traction often works as an enhancement for other therapies.

A physician may recommend at-home exercises before spinal traction. This is usually not required.

The results of spinal traction include pain relief, proper spinal alignment, and decompressed joints. Spinal traction stretches the muscles and bones in the back to combat the effects of gravity. Under the right circumstances, this could significantly improve the way you move and feel throughout the day.

With the help of other physical therapies, many people find great success with spinal traction. Treatment reduces pain and the body is more capable of healing itself. Some people only need spinal traction therapy for a short period of time. Others need it throughout their lives.