What Is Spinal Traction?

Spinal traction is a nonsurgical spinal decompression therapy used to treat back conditions such as degenerative disc disease, sciatica, pinched nerves and herniated discs, according to Healthline. Spinal traction works by gently stretching the spine to change its force and position. This change relieves pressure on the spinal discs causing the herniated or bulging discs to retract. This in turn, promotes the transport of nutrients, oxygen and water into the spinal discs, allowing them to heal, notes WebMD.

Spinal traction can be performed mechanically or manually depending on the needs of a patient. During a mechanical spinal traction, the patient lies on a computer-controlled table with tools such as pulleys, slings and ropes. The physical therapist uses these tools to relieve pressure on the spinal discs mechanically. In manual spinal traction, the therapist uses his hands to create force in the muscles and joints to widen spaces between the vertebrae, indicates Healthline. The results of a successful spinal traction therapy include decompressed joints, pain relief, improved movement and proper spinal alignment, states Healthline.

Spinal traction does not have any long-term risks. However, some patients experience muscle spasms or pain after the treatment, notes Healthline. Not everyone is an ideal candidate for spinal traction. People with conditions such as fractures, tumors, advanced osteoporosis, metal implants in the spine and abdominal aortic aneurysm should not undergo spinal traction therapy, reports WebMD.