Traction, as a treatment, has been used for centuries in an attempt to relieve radiculopathy and pain. Seated, standing, supine, mechanical, manual; there are a vast variety of options when performing traction on a vertebral region.
Nearly every primary care physician and orthopedist refer daily to physical therapy for some form of traction. They refer for traction because they are attempting to decrease intradiscal pressure. What many of them don't know is that a chiropractic technique called flexion/distraction is a far superior treatment choice. It is our responsibility, as chiropractors, to promote and emphasize the effectiveness and safety of this treatment.
Over 65% of chiropractors report using flexion/distraction in their practice. Research studies have proven that flexion/distraction of the cervical and lumbar spine decreases intradiscal pressure with clinical significance. Decreased intradiscal pressure is thought to improve tissue flow gradients, alter nociception, and allow retraction of prolapsed disc material. We have randomized controlled trials (RCT) which have demonstrated the effectiveness of flexion/distraction for treating radiculopathy. Additionally, the traction which many physical therapists use is void of any localizing effect! Essentially, a little bit of the force/traction is applied everywhere; whereas with chiropractic flexion/distraction, we are able to focus at individual vertebral levels with much greater specificity.
The Evidence Based Chiropractor's February 2014 MD Research Brief is going to focus on a piece of research supports the specificity and effectiveness of chiropractic flexion/distraction.