Comparing Decompression vs. Traction for Back Pain Relief 

Home » Blogs from Crist Chiropractic » Comparing Decompression vs. Traction for Back Pain Relief 

Back pain is a prevalent issue, impacting up to 80% of adults at some stage. When seeking non-surgical relief, many discover spinal decompression therapy, which employs intermittent traction to relieve spinal discs and nerve pressure. This method is particularly effective for various spinal conditions and back pain. 

However, traditional traction therapy also merits consideration as an alternative. 

While spinal decompression therapy focuses on controlled, precise pressure relief, traction therapy uses a steady force to stretch the spine. This distinction can make traction therapy a suitable option for certain back pain scenarios, complementing the benefits of spinal decompression therapy in a holistic approach to spinal health.

In this article, let’s compare both these treatments so that you can make the best choice for your spinal issues.

The Mechanism of Spinal Decompression Therapy:

Spinal decompression therapy is rooted in a sophisticated understanding of the spine’s physiology and the biomechanics of back pain. Unlike some other treatments, it offers a targeted approach to addressing the root causes of discomfort and dysfunction.

  • Definition and Mechanism: Non-surgical spinal decompression (NSSD) gently extends and decompresses the spine, generating negative pressures within the discs. This pressure reversal creates a vacuum inside the discs that aid in repositioning bulging discs and drawing disc material back into place, alleviating pressure on compressed nerves. Spinal experts believe that this process ushers nutrients, oxygen, and fluids into the disc, forging a rejuvenated environment conducive to healing.
  • Treatment Sessions: At the beginning of each session, you’ll be set up with a pelvic harness or neck cradle, tailored to maximize decompression on the spine. As a session of NSSD begins, you’ll feel a gentle stretching in your spine as your discs are slowly decompressed and relieved of pressure over a 20-minute period.
  • Conditions It Targets: Spinal decompression therapy has demonstrated remarkable effectiveness for specific spinal conditions, including herniated discs, sciatica, and degenerative disc disease. By directly addressing these issues, decompression therapy aims to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and facilitate the body’s natural healing processes.

Traction Therapy: An Overview

Traction therapy, while older than NSSD, remains a relevant option for back pain relief. Here’s how it compares and contrasts with spinal decompression:

  • Basic Mechanism: Traction therapy involves applying a steady force to elongate the spine. This can temporarily create space between the vertebrae, potentially relieving pressure on the nerves and discs. It’s a more generalized approach than NSSD, which is more targeted.
  • Treatment Experience: During traction therapy, patients experience a consistent stretching of the spine, which can lead to immediate but often short-term relief from back pain. The duration and frequency of sessions vary, often depending on the severity of the condition and the patient’s response to therapy.
  • Target Conditions: Traction therapy is generally used for broader back pain relief. It can be beneficial for conditions like minor disc compressions, muscle spasms, and to some extent, for lumbar alignment issues. However, it may not be as effective for more severe conditions like large herniated discs or advanced degenerative disc disease.
  • Cost and Accessibility: Traction therapy can be more accessible and less expensive than NSSD. This makes it an appealing first-line treatment for those with budget constraints or limited access to advanced NSSD facilities.
  • Risks and Side Effects: Like NSSD, traction therapy carries minimal risks. The most common side effect is temporary soreness or discomfort in the treated area. However, it’s important for patients with certain conditions, like osteoporosis or severe arthritis, to consult their healthcare provider before undergoing traction therapy.

Spinal Decompression vs Traction Therapy:

Studies have compared conventional mechanical traction devices against Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression (NSSD). The traction device showed no positive results for herniated discs, whereas the NSSD produced “good” to “excellent” outcomes in most patients. While both methods aim to elongate and exert tension upon the spine, NSSD’s distinct approach delivers vastly superior results.

  • Targeted Relief: Unlike traditional traction therapy, which applies continuous force to stretch the spine, spinal decompression offers targeted relief. It focuses on specific spinal issues, such as herniated discs and sciatica, by creating a controlled environment that promotes healing and recovery.
  • Effectiveness for Herniated Discs: Research consistently shows that spinal decompression therapy is more effective than traction for treating herniated discs. The intermittent traction used in decompression therapy is precisely designed to relieve pressure on affected discs and nerves, making it the preferred choice for this condition.
  • Comprehensive Approach: While traction therapy may provide temporary relief for general back pain by stretching the spine and promoting muscle relaxation, spinal decompression therapy takes a comprehensive approach. It addresses underlying issues, such as herniated discs or degenerative disc disease, with the aim of achieving long-term results.

Cost and Time Commitment:

Spinal decompression therapy, despite its effectiveness, may raise questions about costs and time commitments. It’s essential to consider these factors when making an informed decision.

  • Cost-Effectiveness: While spinal decompression therapy may appear more expensive per session compared to traction therapy, it often requires fewer sessions to achieve the desired results. This can translate into cost savings in the long run, as fewer sessions are needed to address the root causes of back pain.
  • Average Costs: On average, a session of spinal decompression therapy can cost between $100 and $200, with variations based on factors such as location and the severity of the condition.
  • Treatment Timeline: A standard treatment plan generally encompasses 9-20 sessions, each lasting approximately 20 minutes. Many patients report relief from their pain and other symptoms during the first few treatments and most experience dramatic pain relief after completion of their prescribed NSSD program.

Minimal Risks and Side Effects:

Spinal decompression therapy carries minimal risks and side effects, highlighting its safety and efficacy.

  • Rare Risks: While there is a theoretical risk of disc re-herniation following spinal decompression therapy, it remains rare. The therapy is designed to gently retract herniated or bulging discs, reducing the likelihood of re-injury.
  • Managing Discomfort: Some patients may experience increased soreness following decompression sessions. However, this discomfort is typically short-lived and can be managed with guidance from the treating therapist.

Embracing Superior Relief with Spinal Decompression Therapy

In conclusion, spinal decompression therapy shines as a superior choice for individuals seeking effective and lasting relief from back pain and related spinal conditions. Its targeted approach, effectiveness for herniated discs, and comprehensive nature set it apart from traditional traction therapy. 

Moreover, the cost-effectiveness and relatively short treatment timeline make it a practical choice for those seeking to regain control of their lives without ongoing treatments.
If you are struggling with back pain, consider consulting with a healthcare professional, such as a Crist Chiropractic, to explore the benefits of spinal decompression therapy. With this advanced non-surgical treatment, you can take a significant step towards a pain-free and active lifestyle, allowing you to enjoy life to the fullest.

Posted in ,
About the Author
Dr. Jason Crist founded Crist Chiropractic in Franklin, Tennessee, with a vision to provide health and healing naturally. His personal journey of avoiding surgery ignited his passion for non-invasive care, earning him "Chiropractor of the Year" for his holistic approach.

How Chiropractors Relieve Shoulder Pain: A Complete Guide

By Dr. Jason Crist | June 7, 2024

Introduction Shoulder pain is a common issue that impacts daily life, limiting activities and causing discomfort.  Many people seek alternative treatments, like chiropractic care, to find relief.  Chiropractors can effectively address shoulder pain through personalized and holistic approaches, making them a valuable option for those suffering from this condition. In this guide, we’ll explore the…

Read More

Finding Balance: Can a Chiropractor Help with Vertigo?

By Dr. Jason Crist | June 4, 2024

Introduction Vertigo is more than just dizziness; it’s a condition that can make you feel like you or your surroundings are spinning, significantly impacting your ability to perform daily activities.  While various medical treatments exist, many are turning to chiropractic care as a potential solution. This holistic approach not only addresses the symptoms but also…

Read More

Recommended for You

How Chiropractors Relieve Shoulder Pain: A Complete Guide

June 7, 2024

Introduction Shoulder pain is a common issue that impacts daily life, limiting activities and causing discomfort.  Many people seek alternative treatments, like chiropractic care, to find relief.  Chiropractors can effectively address shoulder pain through personalized and holistic approaches, making them a valuable option for those suffering from this condition. In this guide, we’ll explore the…

Read More

Finding Balance: Can a Chiropractor Help with Vertigo?

June 4, 2024

Introduction Vertigo is more than just dizziness; it’s a condition that can make you feel like you or your surroundings are spinning, significantly impacting your ability to perform daily activities.  While various medical treatments exist, many are turning to chiropractic care as a potential solution. This holistic approach not only addresses the symptoms but also…

Read More

9 Effective Exercises for Decompressing Your Spine Naturally

May 10, 2024

Introduction Understanding your spine’s anatomy and the vital role of intervertebral discs is crucial in recognizing the need for decompression.  These discs provide cushioning between your vertebrae, but they can become compressed from daily activities, leading to discomfort and limited mobility.  Decompressing the spine enhances nutrient flow to these discs, alleviates pressure, and can prevent…

Read More
Crist Chiropractic & Wellness exists to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health through natural and holistic means. Our team is committed to restoring the body’s ability to express its true health potential. We strive to serve our patients and our community with a spirit of complete caring, by radiating health and promoting well-being.

Goodbye Back Pain. Hello Pain Relief!
Crist Chiropractic of Cool Springs Helps You Live Better Now