Can Cervical Traction Relieve Your Neck Pain?
Do you have neck pain needing painkillers to relieve? Looking for a solution that helps deal directly with the problem and not just masks the symptoms? This article is for you. I’d like to start by saying neck pain is complex and that it always is a good idea to seek medical advice before starting a new treatment.
Cervical Traction is a technique used to lightly stretch the neck to relieve the pressure on any trapped nerves, muscles or ligaments in the neck. There are some conditions where stretching the neck would not be desirable, listed below:
- Severe osteoporosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cervical fracture
- Carotid artery disease
If you have any of these then unfortunately, Cervical Traction is not a suitable option for you. For you others, there is an easy way to check if Cervical Traction will help before committing to purchasing a device – It’s called Spurling’s test. You will need an assistant/helpful stranger to perform the test. 1) Sit upright with a natural curvature in your lower spine and push your shoulders back so your shoulder blades are retracted. 2) Move slightly as if you’re trying to touch your ear to the shoulder of the side with the pain. 3) Have your assistant gently push down on the top of your head as shown below.
If this manoeuvre makes the pain worse, congratulations. This means cervical traction will likely relieve your symptoms. This is because if compressing the cause of the pain worsens it, then stretching your neck should relieve that compression and therefore the pain. Now to try some gentle manual traction to test how much traction will help.
For manual traction, 1) lay on a table/firm mattress and rest the back of your head on the surface. 2) Have your assistant place their non-dominant hand on the crown of your head and with 2 fingers of the dominant hand below your chin. This is important as the hand on the chin will be controlling the level of pressure. 3) Your assistant should now gently apply a backwards force with both hands as if pulling your head from your shoulders – this should only be 3-4kg’s worth of force.
If this gives you relief from your symptoms, then you can now buy yourself a cervical traction device so you can benefit without an assistant. The one we use is available here:
from our experience it’s the easiest to put together and for good value. We recommend using it 10 minutes/day for the maximum effect and to couple that with light exercise to strengthen the muscles in the area.
Let us know your experiences with Cervical Traction below and we’ll answer any questions you might have.
Dr Sermed Mezher
Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton
About the Author
Sermed trained in the University of Manchester and is currently a surgical doctor working at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. His main caseload is trauma patients and he works closely with Physiotherapists to manage their pain and ensure a safe discharge from Hospital.