Spinal traction decompresses the spine by gently stretching it in opposite directions, relieving pressure on the discs and vertebrae and improving alignment. It can help improve painful spine conditions and can be performed manually or using a mechanical table.
Spinal traction reduces back pain and improves mobility in several ways. It creates more space between the vertebrae to reduce pressure on nerves and discs. It also creates a vacuum inside the spinal joints, which can pull a protruding disc back into the correct position.
Spinal traction also encourages increased blood flow to the discs, making it easier for them to receive oxygen and nutrients from the bloodstream. This means that spinal traction can encourage healing and tissue repair in damaged or diseased discs.
How Does Spinal Traction Work?
Spinal traction is usually performed during an outpatient appointment at a physical therapy clinic. During the appointment, the therapist may use their hands to gently pull on the legs to relieve pressure in the spine.
However, most people will have mechanical spinal traction. This procedure often uses a special table with weights that attach to the body and stretch the spine. This stretching may be performed continuously or at intervals. However, some traction machines stretch the spine using the patient’s body weight by placing them in a vertical position. Others have tilting sections that let the patient apply the traction force themselves by moving their arms and legs.
Occasionally, spinal traction is performed by placing the patient in positions that stretch the spine. Therapists use special pillows, wedges or other items to support the patient in the correct position.
Spinal traction shouldn’t be painful because the treatment stretches the spine gently. However, patients are likely to experience a stretching sensation during treatment. It’s important to tell the therapist immediately if you feel pain during your spinal traction treatment. Many spinal traction machines have an auto-shutoff safety feature that immediately stops it from stretching the spine as soon as the patient feels pain. This feature helps prevent injury during treatment.
Doctors sometimes recommend having additional treatment alongside spinal traction to improve muscle tone, promote healing and provide pain relief. Electrotherapy is commonly used during or after spinal traction, and it involves using mild electrical currents in the affected area to reduce discomfort and improve circulation. Heat and cold packs can also be helpful.