What is Spinal Traction?

Spinal traction done for therapeutic purposes comprises of either manually or mechanically created forces in order to stretch and mobilize the spine. Spinal traction helps in relieving back pain by stretching the tight muscles of the spine which result from spasm. Spinal traction also helps widen the inter vertebral foramen so that the nerve root impingement is relieved thus relieving back pain and radiating pain.

Evaluation of the Patient for Spinal Traction:

Each patient is different and unique and what is effective for one patient may not be as effective for another. Therefore, each potential patient is evaluated thoroughly before starting the spinal traction treatment. This evaluation allows the chiropractor or the therapist to decide on the type of spinal traction to be used, the force/weight of the traction and the length of treatment.

Techniques of Spinal Traction:

Techniques in spinal traction depend partly on the patient's physical condition, disorder, tolerance level and the level of the spine to be treated. Spinal traction may be applied manually, positional or mechanically. Spinal Traction can be applied intermittently or as a continuous force.

Types of Spinal Traction:

Cervical Traction

Cervical Spinal Traction

Cervical traction is a type of spinal traction that is done as a short-term treatment for neck pain. Cervical traction is designed in a way to relieve cervical nerve root compression and muscle spasms. A steady or intermittent force is applied to the neck in order to stretch the cervical muscles and soft tissues along with widening the spaces between the upper vertebrae by using a manual, i.e. hands only or mechanical force. The chiropractor or physical therapist decides the amount of force and the length of time a person stays in a cervical traction. The amount of pressure for cervical traction is increased gradually.

Lumbar Traction:

In the same way, in lumbar traction, intermittent or continuous force is applied to the lumbar spine either manually or mechanically. The aim of lumbar traction is to decrease the back pain related with back muscle spasms and lumbar nerve root impingement. Lumbar traction is also done for treating lumbar herniated disc or protruding discs, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. Just like cervical traction, lumbar traction also increases the space between the vertebrae, and relieves back pain and promotes healing.

Spinal traction involving cervical traction or lumbar traction is a treatment option that is centered on applying longitudinal force to the spinal column axis. Certain regions of the spinal column are gently and slowly pulled in opposite directions so as to stabilize or change the position of the injured or damaged sides of the spine. There are many medically accepted forms of spinal traction, including the soft tissues or joints mobilization, decompression of pinched nerve roots and herniated intervertebral disc reduction. Spinal tractions like cervical traction and lumbar traction is very effective and does wonders for realigning a dislocation in the cervical spine or lumbar spine and stabilizing the injuries to the cervical/lumbar spine. There are many neck or cervical traction devices or equipments, lumbar traction devices and lumbar home traction equipments available in the market which the patient can do at home also. However, patient should always consult his/her physician before starting any spinal traction treatment and care should be taken when doing it at home.

Spinal Traction Contraindications:

If the structural integrity of the spine is impaired, such as seen in osteoporosis, infection, tumor or cervical rheumatoid arthritis, then spinal traction should be avoided. Spinal traction is also contraindicated in other physical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, pregnancy, hernia and in some cases of TMJ. Spinal Traction, if done in these conditions, can prove to be very harmful.

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