Simply defined, traction is using force (pneumatic, spring, gravity, etc) to apply a directional stress. In Chiropractic, the objective is typically to effect some structural change that will result in improved posture and spinal stability in addition to mitigating the progress of degenerative processes (reducing referred pain, impeding arthritic changes).
Without boring you with biology, physics, materials science and a whole lot of stuff you didn’t come here, for, I can tell you that the ability to do traction on your own depends on proper accommodation for the following considerations:
- Safety – can you “get into” and “get out of” the traction setup safely. Some traction systems are designed for self-application, some need a second person to apply the traction properly and safely. Don’t deviate from the manufacturer’s or doctor’s instructions.
- Proper application – Can you repeatedly and easily assure that the forces are applied in the location AND in the direction where they are needed. A chiropractor has the ability to inspect the setup in use, whereas you will not have the ability to do that when you are in traction. So the system for home use needs to be simple and pretty much fool-proof.
- Amount of force – you can apply too much force was well as applying too little. Too much has the potential to injure you, too little can delay the benefits. That said, I would advise a home user to always tend to the LIGHT side.
- Cost – for home use, traction is typically inexpensive.
Advice: if you are under a traction protocol with a clinical chiropractor, consult with him or her about an appropriate home system for self-maintenance. While you will not likely be able to match the effectiveness or specificity of a professional traction system, it is likely that there is equipment that your chiropractor can provide that will help you maintain and continue to improve on the gains you realized under clinical care.
Chiropractic Home Traction Use: The general approach below is suggested for someone who:
- Is not symptomatic
- has no diagnosed medical conditions
- wants to follow basic “spinal hygienic” procedure on a preventive or maintenance basis.
- has reviewed the traction protocal with their doctor and received personal instruction on how the equipment or procedure or posture may be safely used for your particular case.
Put yourself in a “neutral posture” and determine what that feels like. Then, evaluate the postural distortions (from neutral) that you are primarily subjected to for the biggest part of your day. Define for yourself what the “mirror image” of that distortion looks and feels like. Make a concerted effort to take frequent breaks from the distorted posture throughout your day. If possible and convenient, briefly assume the mirror image of those distortions during those breaks. If there is a position or orientation you can achieve that will apply gravity in such a way as to lend a little extra force in the “mirror image” position, spend 15 to 20 minutes in that position at the end of your work day.
Example: a very common distortion occurs with students in which they have their head tilted forward (“cervical flexion”) while reading and writing. For this reason, a good daily procedure for a student is to lay on his or her back with their head hanging off the edge of the bed for up to 15 or 20 minutes per day. Important tips: a) the edge of a bed typically dips, so it might take some creativity to position yourself in a way that will allow your head to hang back freely without touching the bed, b) initially, this may cause discomfort, so start with 30 seconds, then increase to a minute, then slowly increase the time as you can manage comfortably.