Cervical and lumbar traction is a safe way of applying a stretching force in the spine to relieve pressure and pain. This is a common procedure done by physiotherapists to treat patients with problems in the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine).

Cervical and lumbar traction can be done either manually or mechanically. Both methods effectively provide spine relief to patients, relax muscles, increase intervertebral space, reduce disc herniation, and many more.

This medical procedure is recommended by physiotherapists in Singapore and worldwide. If you want to know the effects of cervical and lumbar traction on your body and to find out why this is a well-recommended procedure by physiotherapists, do keep reading.

Defining Traction and Traction Therapy

Traction is considered the safest procedure for patients with spinal disorders or those experiencing spine-related pain. A thorough physical examination and radiological studies, coupled with the patient’s detailed medical history, are required before performing any cervical and lumbar traction procedures.

Traction therapy is used to treat spinal disorders. It covers different methods, including manual force and mechanical force used to separate the vertebrae along the spine.

Traction therapy is widely practised in the United States of America. It can be administered by physiotherapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and medical physicians.

Traction therapy can be done in three ways: intermittent, sustained, or continuous. Intermittent traction focuses on alternating traction and relaxation within cycles for a couple of minutes.

On the other hand, sustained traction therapy is applying the force for 20-60 minutes long. Lastly, continuous traction is applying the force for several hours or even days.

Cervical Traction

Cervical traction is a medical procedure mainly focused on treating neck pain. Cervical traction is a procedure that can be manually done by hand or using a device.

Cervical traction is a procedure where the head is lightly pulled to produce space between the neck’s bones. Cervical traction reduces the pain, pressure, and tension in your neck.

Lumbar Traction

Lumbar traction is a medical treatment for lower back pain. A gentle force creates a gap between the pelvis and lower back. Lower back pain is very common and, if left untreated, may result in medical expenses and disability.

However, lumbar traction may not be effective for patients with chronic and nonspecific lower back pain. Though physiotherapists still use this method to provide additional modalities to the patient.

Some physiotherapists prefer lumbar traction as a more effective method of addressing pain relief instead of resorting to pain medications for long-term relief. Lumbar traction can treat hernia discs, pinched nerves, sciatica, and other back conditions.

How Cervical and Lumbar Traction Affect the Body

Patients may experience immediate improvement after a few sessions of treatment, such as:

  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced stiffness around the neck
  • Reduced tension in your neck muscles
  • Increased flexibility of the muscles along the spine.

Cervical and lumbar traction may help treat the following long-term medical conditions:

  • Herniated or prolapsed disc
  • Sciatica
  • Spondylitis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis

Traction therapy may be very helpful to most patients. However, cervical and lumbar traction cannot be performed on patients who are diagnosed with the following conditions:

  • Spinal malignancy
  • Spinal cord compression
  • Spinal infection
  • Osteoporosis
  • Acute fracture
  • Inflammatory spondyloarthritis
  • Aortic or iliac aneurysm
  • Abdominal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Claustrophobic or anxious about being restrained
  • Severe haemorrhoids
  • Hypertension
  • Severe cardiovascular or respiratory diseases

Despite the helpfulness of cervical and lumbar traction to patients with spinal problems, there are also unfavourable outcomes associated with this type of procedure. These unfavourable or adverse outcomes happen when the force applied during the traction therapy is more than 50% of the patient’s body weight.

Some of the adverse effects of cervical traction and lumbar traction are:

  • Worsening pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Progression of lumbar disc protrusion
  • Hypertension
  • Increase blood pressure
  • Fracture
  • Cauda equina syndrome

Why do physiotherapists recommend this treatment?

Physiotherapists recommend that patients who are experiencing spinal pain undergo cervical and lumbar traction. This is a safe procedure for treating neck and lower back pain.

You can derive a lot of benefits when you undergo this procedure. This can treat joint mobility, adhesions, muscle spasms, contracted connective tissue, rehydrate the spinal disc, and apophyseal joint impingement.


Cervical and lumbar traction may not be the best and most effective treatment for everyone. It may not completely work, but it may help relieve some of your symptoms. Do not attempt cervical and lumbar traction at home without seeking medical advice from your healthcare provider.

Through physiotherapy, the specialist will assess your condition uniquely. You will receive a well-planned treatment procedure to reach your goal more quickly.

If you are experiencing neck or back pain, visit a registered physiotherapist for an assessment immediately. They will be able to determine the best traction therapy for you.