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Do You Need Cervical Mechanical Traction?

Cervical mechanical traction simply means ‘traction of the neck by the use of a machine’. It is a very common modality used in an out-patient rehabilitation facility.

How Does It Work?

The machine comes with a strap which will be placed around your forehead, the strap is connected with a pulley system which will provide some traction between the head and your neck. The theory behind it is that the traction could widen the intervertebral foramen (where the spinal nerves run through), also could separate the facet joint, which would relieve the sustained pressure on the nerve roots. The traction also allows for stretching and relaxation of the muscles of the neck. Ideally, the head should be placed at a 20-degree angle of flexion for maximizing its effectiveness. Intermittent periods of traction are usually being used, where the force is alternated by period of traction and rest (e.g., 20 seconds of traction followed by 10 seconds of rest period).

What Is Mechanical Traction Good For?

Mechanical traction is usually for individuals with a cervical disc disease such as disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, foraminal stenosis (the narrowing of the nerve passage), radiculopathy (neck pain and associated pain, paresthesia or numbness to the arm), and myofascial tightness in the neck.

Who Should Not Receive Cervical Mechanical Traction?

Generally individuals with acute torticollis, old age, severe anxiety, injury to the spinal cord should avoid having mechanical traction as part of their therapy.

Lastly, the complications of cervical tractions are rare, and therapists should always rule out any spinal injuries before commencing treatment.

Cervical traction work best and almost always accompanies with other treatments, these include but not limited to postural education, exercise therapy, manual therapy, acupuncture, therapeutic ultrasound, and more.

At C.E.S., we provide mechanical traction for a variety of neck and spinal issues. If you are interested in receiving mechanical traction, book an appointment with our therapists at 905-771-8882!


Abi-Aad KR, Derian A. Cervical Traction. 2021 May 15. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. PMID: 29262157.

Romeo, A., Vanti, C., Boldrini, V., Ruggeri, M., Guccione, A. A., Pillastrini, P., & Bertozzi, L. (2018). Cervical radiculopathy: effectiveness of adding traction to physical therapy—a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Physical therapy, 98(4), 231-242.

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