Mechanical Lumbar Traction in Physical Therapy

In this video Ruth Kaplan, Physical Therapist and Owner of Progression Physical Therapy in Princeton New Jersey, demonstrates the use of a Mechanical Lumbar Traction machine with her assistant, Charlotte.

Mechanical lumbar traction is used for people who have lumbar pain or low back pain. Low back pain often occurs from a bend and lift injury, or from sustained sitting, or it’s a muscle strain, or sometimes it’s a disc issue. So, mechanical lumbar traction is appropriate for those conditions. The machine provides lumbar decompression, so it helps to alleviate some of the pain by decompressing the lumbar segments or the vertebrae, lumbar vertebrae, and helps to alleviate pain.

When the machine is operating there should be no pain, nothing sharp in the low back, nothing that is achy. It should feel good, and it’s a very subtle stretch. It lasts for 10 to 12 minutes. It’s a cycle of pulling, holding for 30 seconds, and then releasing, and then a return pull, and that goes for the full cycle of 10 to 12 minutes.

Once the stretch is completed we teach you how to get up out of bed or off this table, in a way that is helpful to your back. First you lie on your side. You do this to protect your lumbar spine, so that you can maintain any good benefit that you have received from the lumbar decompression. You’re going to kick your legs off the edge and push up with your hands as a unit. Then just sit for a moment so you don’t get dizzy and then stand.

Once a patient has finished their treatment in mechanical lumbar traction, they will assess how they feel for the rest of the day. That will determine whether we do the treatment again the next session.

At Progression Physical Therapy, each patient session consists of some manual therapy, some exercise, and we typically finish off with mechanical lumbar traction for pain relief, before the patient leaves. It’s a tried and true method in physical therapy. It provides decompression to the lumbar spine for situations such as pain from a muscle strain, pain from a disc problem, and just pain from sustained sitting. People love it, and that’s why we do it. ~ Ruth Kaplan, PT, DPT