Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression Therapy

lumbar traction

What Is Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression Therapy?

Nonsurgical spinal decompression is a type of motorized traction that may help relieve back pain. It works by gently stretching the spine to change the force and position of the spine, creating negative pressure in the disk (disks are gel-like cushions between the vertebrae in your spine), so that the bulging disks may retract, takes pressure off nerves and other structures in the spine. This in turn, helps promote movement of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids into the disks so they can heal.

Doctors have used nonsurgical spinal decompression in an attempt to treat:

  • Back or neck pain or sciatica
  • Bulging disks or degenerative disk disease
  • Worn spinal joints (called posterior facet syndrome)
  • Injured or diseased spinal nerve roots

More research is needed to establish the safety and effectiveness of nonsurgical spinal decompression.

How Is Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression Done in medical practice?

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

Examples of Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression at home. hanging-stretch-1MATThangingfrompullupbar

Is traction effective in treating low-back pain? 

Opinions vary.


NO —— Based on current evidence, traction as a single treatment is not effective for patients with low-back pain, with or without sciatica. There are very few high-quality studies in this field.  —— Accroding to Institute for Work & Health in Canada.

YES —— Spinal decompression therapy and general traction therapy are effective at improving the pain, disability, and Straight Leg Raising of patients with intervertebral disc herniation. Thus, selective treatment may be required.  —— J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Feb

YES —— Patients with lumbar disc herniation received physiotherapy had improvement based on clinical and radiologic evidence. Noninvasive Spinal Decompression Therapy  can be used as assistive agent for other physiotherapy methods in treatment of lumbar disc herniation. —— J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2017 May

Who Should NOT have Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression?

It is best not to try it if you are pregnant. People with any of these conditions should also not have nonsurgical spinal decompression:

  • Fracture
  • Tumor
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Advanced osteoporosis
  • Metal implants in the spine

Our opinion: Ask your doctor whether or not you are a good candidate for nonsurgical spinal decompression. If you are, try it out, safely. It is good to try Noninvasive therapies before directly jumping into surgery, isn’t it? (Unless the symptoms are too severe and any delay on surgery will make the condition worse.)

Acupuncture also helps promote movement of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids into the disks so they can heal.