How is spinal traction used in the treatment of spinal disorders

The efficacy of traction in treatment of spinal disorders is controversial. Several techniques are available for applying traction to the spine: manual, mechanical (pulley, free weights), motorized, and autotraction (a device provides lumbar traction when the patient pulls with the arms). Mechanisms proposed for a positive therapeutic effect from traction include distraction of neural foramina and vasa nervorum decompression. Cervical traction can be applied in sitting or supine position with 20 to 30 pounds of traction force. Because approximately 10 pounds are required to counteract the weight of the head, cervical traction tends to be more effective in the supine position. Lumbar traction is generally applied in the supine position with 90 degree of hip and knee flexion. Because of the large forces required to achieve lumbar distraction (50 pounds for posterior vertebral separation, 100 pounds for anterior vertebral separation), lumbar traction is often poorly tolerated by patients.

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