Question: I read that spinal traction can help back pain. What is it and what does it do?
Answer: Chronic and acute back pain can be debilitating and very disruptive to your daily life. 1 in 5 persons suffers from back pain. Back pain can range from a dull constant ache to a sudden sharp pain that makes it uncomfortable to move.
Anyone can have back pain, but some things that increase your risk are:
•Getting older. Back pain is more common as you become older. Most people report their first back pain around ages 30-40.
•Poor physical fitness.
•Being overweight. Too much weight can stress the back causing pain.
•Heredity. Some causes of back pain, such as spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine, can have a genetic component.
•Other diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can cause back pain.
•Your job. If you have to lift, push, or pull while twisting your trunk and spine, you may get back pain. If you work at a desk job and do not sit up properly, you are also at a greater risk for back pain. Anything that is causing improper alignment whether you sit or stand, places you at risk.
•Smoking. Though widely overlooked by the general population, this is a big one for being a factor for other common back conditions such as spinal stenosis, etc. Your body may not be able to get enough nutrients to the disks in your back if you smoke. Also, people who smoke are slower to heal, so back pain may last longer.
Common Treatment for Back Pain
There are multiple ways back pain can be treated. It all depends on what type of back pain you are experiencing and the root cause behind the pain. Many times acute pain will go away simply with rest or administering a dose of ibuprofen. Other times, it requires hot or cold therapies, exercise, physical therapy or, at the most extreme level, spinal nerve blocks or surgery.
Spinal Traction for Back Pain Relief Offered at Peabody
Peabody now offers Spinal Traction as a treatment option for various types of back pain. This, in conjunction with exercise, is proving to have significant results for back pain relief.
“It is uncommon for your average senior care community to offer traction. This is mainly because it takes specialized training and highly skilled physical therapists in addition to investing in the proper equipment, which can be costly. Since we treat so many for back pain for both workers’ comp injuries and our outpatient clientele, this was definitely needed. We are thrilled to be able to provide this to our community.” -Jillian Everett, Administrator.
Treating back and neck pain with spinal traction is a practice that's been around for many years. The goal of spinal traction is to pull the vertebrae apart from each other. The purpose is to create more space for nerves where they exit the spinal column or to relieve pressure on the cartilage disks between the bones or on the small spinal joints themselves. At lower intensities, it can also be used to stretch small spinal muscles. The theory is that if the disks are pulled, they will regain hydration or have an influx of water. This would then make them more shock absorbent - thus reducing pain.
Types of spinal traction include: sustained intermittent mechanical, manual, positional, auto-traction and gravity traction. The type of traction ordered by your physician depends on your diagnosis. For instance, pinched nerves may respond better to intermittent traction than gravity. In order for traction to be effective, the force must be great enough to cause separation at the target spinal segment. A wide range of forces, from 30-300 percent of body weight has been shown to be effective in studies.
The outcome of traction is to reduce the neurological signs and pain in the neck, back and extremities allowing for the return of full function.
You must have an order from your physician to use traction and receive therapy. The physician refers the patient to physical therapy for treatment of neck or back pain. The Peabody physical therapist examines the patient and makes decisions regarding the appropriate plan of care, which may include traction. The Peabody physical therapist determines the specifications for traction and sets up the patient on the apparatus for the first few times, being sure to monitor the patient intermittently. The patient is then set up for future treatments.
Jessica Duffy, OTR is an Occupational Therapist and the Director of Rehabilitation at Peabody Retirement Community. She was born and raised in North Manchester where she lives with her husband and four children.
Peabody Rehabilitation provides short-term rehabilitation for a quick recovery after surgery or illness, as well as outpatient therapy for adults of all ages seven days a week. If you want the best in rehabilitation, Peabody is your number one choice.
To seek more information about Rehabilitation at Peabody or to receive more information to see if traction modalities are the right option to help manage your current condition, contact Jessica Duffy, Rehab Director at 982-8616.