There are many different treatment approaches for lower back pain. One that has been available for quite some time is lumbar traction. Lumbar traction is a treatment approach where the patient lies on their back and has some form of a belt around their waist. The traction machine applies a gentle pull toward the direction of the feet. In simple terms, the spine is being pulled apart or “decompressed”.
Traction for Lower Back Pain
Traction for lower back pain is intended to pull the spinal levels apart and “decompress” the spine. The proposed benefit is to mobilize each level of the spine and provide relief to the various weight bearing structures of the spine (especially the intervertebral discs) since they are normally subjected to compression during our daily upright activities.
What conditions does Spinal Traction Treat?
According to various texts and websites, most clinics use spinal traction to treat disc herniations, disc bulges, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and general, uncomplicated mechanical lower back pain.
Scientific Evidence for Spinal Traction
A 2006 systematic review published in the journal Spine investigated the effectiveness of spinal traction. (For those who aren’t aware, a systematic review is when the authors of a paper pool together and analyze all the available published literature on a topic, so the results of a systematic review are usually quite meaningful). In a nutshell, the authors of the systematic review concluded that traction is not recommended as a stand-alone treatment. In other words, if that is the only treatment you’re having on your lower back the balance of the scientific literature doesn’t support it. On the other hand, the review was unable to say anything about this approach when combined with other treatments.
What is Spinal Decompression?
To be honest, I’m not sure. Spinal decompression is not offered at our facility so I’m far from an expert. From what I’ve read, it seems very similar to spinal traction (as discussed above) but more computerized and modern. Again, I’m unable to find scientific literature (published in a reputable peer reviewed journal to eliminate bias) that recommends it as a stand-alone treatment for back pain. Perhaps a reader with more knowledge or experience in this treatment approach will help us out and comment!
According to the literature then, spinal traction may be helpful for those with lower back pain when combined with other therapies. If you are attending a clinic that utilizes spinal traction as a treatment approach, it might be wise to combine this treatment with another form in order to maximize your results! For further information about the services offered at Burlington Sports Therapy or our approach to treating lower back pain, feel free to contact us. firstname.lastname@example.org
Clark et al. Traction for low back pain with or without sciatica: an updated systematic review within the framework of the Cochrane Collaboration. Spine 2006; 31(14):1591-1599.