What Is Spinal Decompression Therapy or Traction?

Spinal decompression therapy, also known as “traction,” is a type of motorized traction that can help relieve neck and back pain. Spinal decompression works by gently stretching the spine, which changes the force and position of the spine. This traction will take pressure off the spinal disks, which are the gel-like cushions between the bones in your spine.

Negative pressure from this therapy can cause bulging or herniated disks to retract, taking pressure off the nerves and other structures in your spine, which helps promote movement of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids into the disks so they can heal.

Doctors prescribe spinal decompression therapy to treat:

  • Back or neck pain or sciatica (pain, weakness, or tingling that extends down the leg)
  • Bulging or herniated disks or degenerative disk disease
  • Worn spinal joints (called posterior facet syndrome)
  • Injured or diseased spinal nerve roots (called radiculopathy)

How Is Spinal Decompression Therapy Done?

You are fully clothed during spinal decompression therapy. The physical therapist fits you with a harness around your pelvis and another around your trunk for back treatment or around your head for neck treatment. You either lie face down or face up on a computer-controlled table. A therapist operates the computer, customizing treatment to your specific needs.

Treatment will last 30 to 45 minutes and you may require several weeks of treatment.