[Updated on 1 June 2020] Traction of the spine, also known as cervical traction, is a popular treatment done on the neck and related injuries. Ideally, the cervical traction pulls your head away from the neck to create expansion and to eliminate compression. It is considered an alternative treatment for individuals experiencing neck pain, helping them avoid complicated procedures such as surgeries of medication. Cervical traction can be used as part of physical therapy treatment or on your own at home.
Cervical traction devices work by lightly stretching out the neck. This action reduces pressure on your spine by pulling or separating the vertebrae. Medical experts recommend using this device since it’s fast-acting and has highly effective results.
What Benefits Does a Cervical Traction Offer?
Well, for starters, cervical traction devices treat different causes and types of neck pain, tension, and tightness. Cervical traction devices work by relaxing the muscles, which in effect help significantly relieve stiffness and pain, while at the same time maximizing flexibility. They also function by flattening herniated or bulging disks. They help relieve spasms, pain in the joints, and sprains. These devices also treat pinched nerves, neck injuries, as well as cervical spondylosis.
The Cervical traction device typically functions by stretching out the muscles and spinal vertebrae to reduce pain and pressure. Tension and force is used to pull or stretch the patient’s head from the neck. This effect creates space in between the vertebrae reducing compression and allowing the muscles to relax. In effect, it stretches or lengthens the muscle joints around the neck. These improvements will typically lead to improved mobility, alignment, and range of motion, allowing individuals to go about their daily activities with ease.
According to a 2017 study that analyzed the efficacy of cervical traction when it comes to relieving neck pain, the treatment reduced neck pain significantly following surgery. Pain scores also decreased during the follow-up period.
Another study in 2012 also found that mechanical traction was quite useful when it comes to treating people’s neck pain and pinched nerves. According to the survey, mechanical traction was more effective than exercise in addition to using over-door traction.
How is Cervical Traction Done?
There are several different ways to perform cervical traction at home on your own or with the help of a physical therapist. Your physical therapist will help you decide what the best method for your case is. Your therapist may also recommend the use of cervical traction equipment that you will use at home. It is important to note that cervical devices are available online, and in the supply store, they may require you to have a prescription. With the help of your physical therapist, you will learn how to use the device before you can safely try it on your own at home.
You must check with your doctor regardless of whether you are performing the treatment at home. He or she will measure your progress, ensure that you are doing the right treatment, and adjust your therapy where necessary.
Manual Cervical Traction
A physical therapist typically does this treatment. Lying down, your physical therapist will gently pull your head away from your neck. They will hold this position for a stipulated amount of time before releasing and doing it again. Your physical therapist, on the other hand, will make adjustments to your exact positioning to get the best results.
Mechanical Cervical traction
A physical therapist can perform this procedure. A harness is attached to your head and your neck while you lie flat on your back. The harness will hook up to a machine or s system of weights that will then apply a traction force to pull your head away from your neck and spine.
Over-the-door cervical traction
This treatment is done with the use of an over the door traction device at home. You need to place your neck and head onto a harness. It is then joined to a rope that is part of a weighted pulley system that runs over a door. This procedure can be performed seated, lying down or leaning back.
Side Effects and Warnings
Generally, it is safe to perform cervical traction. However, it’s important to remember the results will be different from one individual to the other. The treatment must also be pain-free. Patients should expect possibilities of symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and headaches adjusting their body in such a manner. In rare cases, it could lead to fainting. In case you experience any of these side effects, it is advisable that you stop the treatment, and discuss them with your doctor or physical therapist.
During cervical traction treatment, it’s possible for patients to injure their spine, neck, or tissue. In case you have the following conditions, you should avoid cervical traction treatment:
- Post-surgery hardware such as screws in the neck
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal hypermobility
- Known tumor in your neck region
- Recent fracture or injury in the neck area
- A bone infection
- Cervical instability
Affected individuals must follow any necessary safety instructions and recommendations that may be provided by the doctor or manufacturer. It is essential that you perform the movement correctly and use the appropriate amount of weight. Don’t exert yourself by doing the cervical traction treatment for too long. It’s advisable to discontinue the use if you experience any irritation or pain or if your symptoms get worse.
Factors affecting the Efficacy of Cervical traction
Three main factors determine the effectiveness of cervical traction:
- The strength of pressure that is applied to the affected areas
- The direction of the traction force
- The duration and frequency of the therapy sessions
For quality results, it is advisable to consult the services of a licensed medical practitioner to offer the appropriate instructions and details for treatment using the cervical traction procedure.
Strength of the Pressure
The application of the force to the cervical discs mustn’t be forced. This is because the inner-vertebral discs are small, fragile, and generally unstable. During the first use, patients need to know the strength and force that is required to alleviate the pain symptoms.
In case the minimum applicable force does not alleviate the pain symptoms in the affected areas, then the device needs to be adjusted until the desired strength is achieved. Moreover, the application of the pressure and the determination of the appropriate force needs to be performed gradually. It will help minimize the adverse effects, maximizing the benefits of the traction procedure.
The Direction of Traction
In case you are suffering from neck pains, there’s a possibility of having constant cervical joint spasms. This effect is due to the cervical spine extension, which increases the root irritation. The typical reaction to this is to flex the spine vertically to relieve the expansion of the cervical spine. The result of this effect is the distraction of the spaces of the cervical spine and the correction of posture, reducing the patient’s pain.
The cervical traction process also replicates this kind of maneuver. It offers proper spine alignment and posture to individuals alleviating the pain. It is due to this reason that the direction of the traction is vital to getting relief from cervical spine misalignment. Furthermore, the patient will need to sit up straight as traction is applied vertically through a pulling mechanism.
The Duration and Frequency of Therapy
It is important to note that the duration and the frequency of the cervical traction procedure mainly depend on its results. In case the patient does not achieve relief through short traction time, the process may be extended until relief is obtained.
The Cervical traction therapy procedure needs to be frequent, especially in the initial stages of treatment. The sessions can be reduced in case the cervical pains become more infrequent. Traction can continue later if need be or can be discontinued if spinal pain does not reoccur.
Cervical Traction Exercises
There are a variety of cervical traction exercises that can be done using a cervical traction device. Make sure you listen to your body. Go to your threshold and edge in terms of stretching and the duration of the exercises. To use the air neck traction device, wrap it around your neck and adjust the straps as needed. Pump the device and wear it for around 20 to 30 minutes. You can do this a few times a day. If possible, wear this device while doing activities that would force you to slouch.
While using a store-bought neck traction device, you may begin with 10 to 20 pounds of force. You can increase the force as you gain more strength. Your physical therapist can recommend the right amount of weight for you to use. If possible, pull and hold the weight for about 10 to 20 seconds before slowly releasing. Continue this for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. You can perform this exercise a few times a day.
A posture pump is typically used lying down. It’s advisable to do a warm-up before using this device. To start, slowly turn your head from side to side, then forward and backward, and then lean the neck from one side to the other. Perform this exercise ten times. Attach the mobile device onto your head, increasing the pressure so that it is tight around your forehead.
Once it is pumped, wait for about 10 seconds before releasing the air. Do it about 15 times. Next, inflate the unit and lie comfortably for up to 15 minutes. Make sure you don’t pump it too much, especially when you begin the exercise. Once released from the pump, ensure your head is in proper alignment with your spine coming to standing position. Do the warm-up routine again.
If possible, you may also incorporate stretching into your daily routine. You can use accessories such as resistance bands and exercise balls. Yoga is also another great tool that can help relieve neck pain. There are also several cervical tractions exercises your physical therapist can recommend that will not require the use of equipment apart from a table or bed.
In case you are looking for an affordable solution to relieve pain and injury, then getting cervical collar support from Vive will do the trick. This neck brace helps support your jaws, and neck limiting mobility to help alleviate the pressure in your spine. The collar of this device has a soft foam structure that can be worn while sleeping or throughout your daily activities. This neck brace is quite comfortable to wear and wraps around the neck and secures with Velcro straps. This particular neck traction device accommodates neck sizes from 15 inches to 20.5 inches. Its material construct is a breathable design that is made of latex-free foam. This neck traction device comes with a 60-day guarantee.
This head-hammock traction device is mobile and enhances head relaxation, relieves pain, and is ideal for stretching the neck. This neck traction device works to increase faster mobility of blood from the head to other parts of the body. It is instrumental and takes only a couple of minutes to relieve pain. It stretches the head to help in reducing strain on the neck, especially for long distances.
The Portable Hammock Traction is a top-rated device known for its fast healing capabilities. It also comes with a high-quality build construct that will last for years. This traction device also works to increase circulation and blood flow, ideal for good posture and relieving neck pain.
The Instapark traction device has a more familiar design-build. It is an inflatable neck pillow that features a hand pump, and a Velcro strap to help secure it. Compared to other devices in the market is that you get one big pillow instead of a layered effect above. It’s ideal for individuals who have problems with the shape and size of other traction devices.
This neck traction device is quite simple to use and offers a comfortable user experience due to the material around the neck and its user-friendly hand pump. It’s also been designed for portability and makes the perfect travel traction tool.
The Easy Giraffe Neck Traction Device is reasonably priced, retailing for about $20. And while the price might make the user feel like it offers less in terms of pain relief or function, it provides the comfort of being a simple, user-friendly device. The device features a simple inflation system that has a high material feel on the user’s skin.
This device works by using a stack of three neck pillows stacked on each other and an essential hand pump. You can inflate the pillow to your desired level of comfort and pain relief or deflate as needed. When not in use, the device can be deflated into a foldable pouch that is easy to carry. A downside to this device is that its velcro straps don’t have quality material and can get undone easily.
If you are looking for a customizable traction device, then the ComfortTrac Cervical Traction Device is your ideal fit. It features adjustable supports for the neck within an ergonomic design that makes it possible for the user to create the right-angle pressure to alleviate their pain symptoms. The main selling point here is that users can get instant results if they have spine compression problems.
This device’s padding and adjustability offer the right fitting and comfort for most users. It’s also known to provide quick pain relief for some users. On the downside, there’s a learning curve getting to use this device since it lacks instructions for all its parts. Also, there are significant issues with its carrying case, which makes it less ideal for traveling and portability.
The moment you feel back pain, and you have tried all the remedies, but none seems to work, it’s advisable to visit a doctor or a physiotherapist. These medical professionals have the correct training to access your problem and offer safe, effective solutions.