Manual Spinal Traction – Treatment for Back Pain


Manual spinal traction is not a new age, voodoo type of thing. It is a medically accepted form of therapy used to complement other forms of treatment for alleviating back pain resulting from injury and other medical conditions such as sciatica and lumbago. Contrary to popular belief, this method has been employed by physical therapists for more than a hundred years and is now widely practiced in the rehabilitative profession. It is basic, therefore, to arm yourself with information about spinal traction.

How is manual spinal traction done?

Spinal traction can be manual, mechanical, positional, sustained, and manual, but we will focus on the last type. All forms of spinal traction involve the use of force to pull apart the vertebrae, the individual thick bones that comprise the spinal cord. Manual traction is performed by the rehabilitation provider himself, using his body to apply force to the patient’s body, unlike other forms of traction, which involves the use of mechanical devices like weights, pulleys, or halters.

How can traction relieve people of back pain and improve medical conditions?

When the vertebrae are drawn apart from one another, space is made more available for nerves to be able to travel more freely. At the same time, hydration and water inflow increase, making the spinal column stronger and more shock absorbent. This is the theory behind manual spinal traction, where the primary aim is to reduce or eradicate lower back, cervical, or radiating pain. At lesser intensities, spinal traction is also used to stretch the smaller spinal muscles constricted spasms or involuntary contractions due to restricted nerves.

What techniques are used to implement manual spinal traction?

Two common techniques are used for manual traction: cervical traction and lumbar traction. During cervical traction, the patient lies on his back on a stable medical table and the therapist uses his hands to support and reposition the head from side to side. Typically, this involves a smaller amount of force, around 20 to 30 pounds in all, while lumbar traction requires a greater force that is around half the patient’s body weight. In lumbar traction, the therapist tugs at the patient’s ankles or wraps the patient’s legs over his shoulders and pulls across his thighs.

Can everyone undergo manual spinal traction?

Before a practitioner can subject any patient to any form of spinal traction, or any form of therapy for that matter, he has to carefully and thoroughly examine the patient first. Although traction has been seen as an effective treatment for back pain and degenerative diseases, not everybody is suitable to it. For starters, not everybody can endure the weight of physical force. For instance, pregnant women certainly should not subject themselves to any kind of forceful treatment, and so with others who are suffering from cardiovascular disease, hernia, and TMJ (temporomandibular joint disease). At the same time, patients who may have weakened spinal columns, such as those diagnosed with osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis, should not undergo traction.