Spinal Traction is the process of stretching out, elongating, or decompressing the spine. While there are a number of treatments that can accomplish these goals, mechanical and manual traction are two of the most common.
Mechanical Traction utilizes a motorized unit that decompresses the spine by gently stretching it. The theory behind mechanical traction is that this stretching movement takes the pressure off of the spinal discs and gently alleviates compressive loads on the joints of the spine as well. By doing this, it promotes the movement of blood, water, and nutrition to the disc so it can heal.
Manual Traction, often called distraction of joint surfaces, involves the therapist using his or her hands to promote healing and alleviate pain. This gentle stretching of the spine can loosen tight muscles, relieve pressure on the structures of the spine and improve circulation.
While Manual Traction is most commonly applied to the cervical spine (the neck), it is also implemented at the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, or ankle/foot. This treatment helps to relax muscles, stretch tight scar tissue, and facilitate increased range of motion.
These treatments are often used in conjunction with additional joint mobilization techniques to help the patient reach their functional goals.
Ask your therapist if mechanical or manual traction is an appropriate treatment for you.