When is traction used for the management of cervical and lumbar spinal disorders?
Traction involves applying force in a manner to distract the cervical or lumbar vertebral bodies. This can increase the intervertebral foraminal area, allowing more space for the exiting nerve root. It can stretch ligaments and muscles and may decrease muscle spasm and pressure on intervertebral discs. There is no consensus on the indications for traction and the evidence for its benefit is limited. Still, this modality is occasionally employed to treat cervical and lumbar pain, especially if there is associated radicular pain such as in disc herniation with nerve impingement. Both cervical and lumbar traction work best if applied two or three times a day until pain relief occurs. Failure to improve pain within 2 to 4 weeks and/or exacerbation of pain during traction is an indication to stop this therapy.