Cervical traction is a treatment procedure that is often used in physical therapy to help treat neck pain and cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerves). It includes gently stretching your neck and straightening out the disc and joint surfaces in your cervical spine (neck).
Cervical neck traction devices lightly stretch the neck to decrease pressure on the spine by separating or pulling the vertebrae. It’s supposed to be both greatly effective and fast-acting. Read on to learn more about this procedure and in what way it can help you.
Purpose of using a Cervical Traction Device
Cervical traction can be used for a variety of purposes.
- It can be used to help decrease compressive forces in the neck, which can help take pressure off of the discs that reside between the vertebrae (spinal bones) in the neck.
- It can also open up the spaces where nerves exit the spinal canal, which can help relieve pressure off of a compressed nerve.
- Traction can also help stretch the muscles and joint structures around the neck helping to reduce neck and shoulder pain.
Common diagnoses that may benefit from cervical traction include, but are not limited to:
- Herniated or bulging discs in the neck
- Neck strains
- Neck arthritis
- Cervical muscle spasms
If you have any of these conditions or symptoms, check in with your healthcare provider and visit your PT to see if cervical traction is right for you. Your PT can show you what to do (and what to avoid) to properly manage your neck pain.
Benefits of cervical traction
- Cervical traction devices treat different types and causes of neck pain, tension, and tightness.
- Cervical traction helps to relax the muscles, which can significantly relieve pain and stiffness while increasing flexibility.
- It’s also used to treat and flatten bulging or herniated disks.
- It can alleviate pain from joints, sprains, and spasms.
- It’s also used to treat neck injuries, pinched nerves, and cervical spondylosis.
- Cervical traction devices work by stretching the spinal vertebrae and muscles to relieve pressure and pain.
- Force or tension is used to stretch or pull the head away from the neck.
- Creating space between the vertebrae relieves compression and allows the muscles to relax. This lengthens or stretches the muscles and joints around the neck.
These improvements may lead to improved mobility, range of motion, and alignment. This will allow you to go about your daily activities with greater ease.
Avoid cervical traction if you have:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- post-surgery hardware such as screws in your neck
- a recent fracture or injury in the neck area
- a known tumor in the neck area
- a bone infection
- issues or blockages with vertebral or carotid arteries
- cervical instability
- spinal hypermobility
Always talk to your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any treatment. Touch base with them throughout your therapy to discuss your improvements as well as any side effects. They can also help you to set up a treatment plan that addresses exactly what you need to correct.