Cervical spinal traction is used for the short-term treatment of neck pain. It is designed to relieve muscle spasms and nerve root compression. Using a manual (hands only) or mechanical technique, a steady or intermittent force is applied to the neck to stretch the muscles and soft tissue and open the spaces between the upper vertebrae. The physical therapist determines the amount of force and length of time a person remains in traction. Slowly, over time, the amount of pressure is increased.
Similarly, lumbar traction is the continuous or intermittent application of force to the spine either manually or mechanically. The goal of lumbar traction is to reduce the pain associated with nerve root impingement and muscle spasms. It is also used to treat degenerative disc disease, herniated or protruding discs and osteoarthritis. As with cervical spinal traction, the process separates the space between vertebrae, which decompresses discs, alleviates pain and supports healing.