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Mechanical spinal decompression: leaving low back pain in the dust!

Are you experiencing neck pain, low back pain, or pain radiating down your arms or legs? If so, spinal decompression could be a viable treatment option for you!

Mechanical spinal decompression: leaving low back pain in the dust!

Up to 80% of adults will experience some sort of lumbar pain at least one time in their lives1. Oftentimes, this pain can be caused by intervertebral disc compression, herniation and degeneration as well as facet joint issues. These discs sit between our vertebrae and create a gel-like cushion between them. Our nerve roots that come off from the spinal cord run through the spaces that the discs create. Disc degeneration or facet joint issues usually result in compression of the intervertebral spaces resulting in pressure on that nerve root. Pressure on a nerve root can result in radiating pain, numbness and tingling and dysfunction of the muscles that the specific nerve root innervates.

So what is traction therapy?

Spinal decompression or traction is a non-invasive and conservative therapy, which alleviates pressure on the spine. Traction can be performed both manually and mechanically. In both forms, however, the spine is gently stretched and then relaxed for a number of times. This gentle stretching achieves decompression by reducing the pressure on the intervertebral disc. The decreased pressure on the nerve root results in increased hydration of the jelly-like disc, which reduces the pressure on that nerve root2.

What are our treatments like?

At Integral, traction is usually done on our state or the art, computer controlled traction table and can be performed on both the lumbar and cervical spine. For lumbar traction, you lay down in on the decompression table and then you will be fitted into the support system. One strap will be secured snugly around your waist and another will be fitted around your chest. The bottom strap is then attached to the traction system, which controls the angle of pull and the proper force of the pull. During cervical traction, while lying on your back your head will be placed in a specially designed traction instrument with bolsters on the sides of the neck and a strap over the forehead to secure its position. Usually, we perform traction in 10-minute sessions where peak force is applied for 45 seconds and then is relaxed for 15 seconds. The sessions are not painful and can be described as a gentle pulling sensation and can often result in quick relief of pain and symptoms.

Research suggests that spinal decompression traction therapy does reduce the pressure applied to the discs in the spine and that this decreased pressure results in decreased pain and restoration to normal function2,3. When paired with other physical therapy treatments, traction can help get people with low back and neck pain get back to health!

If you’d like to learn more about spinal traction therapy and back pain, you can check out our spinal decompression service page on our site or book an appointment and speak to a member of our knowledgable staff!


  1. Ramos G, Martin W: Effects of vertebral axial decompression on intradiscal pressure. J Neurosurg, 1994, 81: 350–353.
  2. Choi J, Lee S, Hwangbo G: Influences of spinal decompression therapy and general traction therapy on the pain, disability and straight leg raising in patients with intervertebral disc herniation. J Phys Ther Sci, 2015, 27(2): 481-483.
  3. Borman P, Keskin D, Bodur H: The efficacy of lumbar traction in the management of patients with low back pain. Rheumatol Int, 2003, 23(2): 82-86.

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