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Traction: Does It Help Neck Pain and Headaches?

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DRX9000c Cervical Decompression

We have been providing neck pain treatment in San Francisco for over 20 years now. We have incorporated cervical traction and now nonsurgical spinal decompression  with the DRX9000c.

Traction is defined as, “…the act of pulling a body part.” Therefore, it is commonly used in many regions including legs, arms, low back, mid-back, and the neck. We will be limiting this discussion to cervical or neck traction, and the question of the month is, “…does it help patients with neck pain and headaches?” Though I’m assuming you already know, the answer is YES! You may want a little “proof,” so here it goes!

  1. REDUCES DISK PROTRUSIONS: In 2002, a medically based study found traction to be very effective in the treatment of cervical radiculopathies (pinched nerves in the neck that radiate pain into the arms). A 2008 study using MRI (images) described the effect traction had on the disk protrusions in the neck reporting 25 of 35 (or 71%) were reduced while in traction with a 19% increase in the spacing (disk height) and improved neck range of motion after the traction was applied. They postulated that by pulling the vertebrae in the neck apart, there was a suction-like effect pulling the disk material back in place.
  1. RECOMMENDED BY GUIDELINES: Around the world, guidelines have been published giving doctors information that allows us to know how well certain forms of treatment work for different conditions. In a 2008 publication, it was reported that, “Clinicians should consider the use of mechanical intermittent cervical traction, combined with other interventions such as manual therapy and strengthening exercises, for reducing pain and disability in patients with neck and neck-related arm pain.”
  1. CLINICAL PREDICTION RULES: These help us determine who is most likely to benefit from a certain type of treatment (in this case cervical traction and exercise). If 3 of 5 variables are found, the likelihood of success with traction & exercise was reported to be 79%, and if 4 of the 5 are found, 90%. The 5 variables are: 1. Radiating neck to arm pain in certain positions; 2. Positive shoulder abduction sign; 3. Age >55years old; 4. Positive limb tension test; 5. Relief of symptoms using manual distraction test (if pain is relieved while the neck is being pulled).
  1. INTERMITTENT AND CONTINUOUS TRACTION: Either way, significant improvement in neck and arm pain, neck mobility, and nerve function occurred with both approaches.
  1. TRACTION VS. SURGERY: In this study, patients with radiating arm pain and positive neurological findings on exam were offered a course of traction before surgical options. They reported 63 of 81, or 78%, of the patients experienced significant or total relief, 3 could not tolerate traction and 15 simply didn’t respond. They concluded that when neck and arm symptoms with neurological deficits were present for 6 weeks, that 75% will respond to neck traction over the next 6 weeks.

            There are MANY additional studies available that show well beyond doubt that cervical traction is a GREAT option in the management of neck and arm pain and sometimes headaches. Next month, we will discuss “HOW TO” apply cervical traction.

            We realize that you have a choice in where you choose your healthcare services.  If you, a friend or family member requires care for neck pain, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.

To schedule an appointment with one of our San Francisco Spinal Decompression Doctors call 415-392-2225.

 

Scott Calzaretta

Chiro-Medical Group is an innovative collaboration of health care professionals who work together as a team to promote optimal health. Our group includes experts in the fields of medicine, chiropractic, physical therapy, massage, nutrition, and personal athletic training.

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Low Back Pain and Spinal Manipulation: How Does it Work?

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Spinal Adjustment

For many years, Chiropractic has been at the forefront of treating low back pain (LBP) with both greater patient satisfaction and less lost time at work when compared to other non-surgical treatment approaches. There have been many explanations as to why chiropractic manipulation therapy (CMT) works but many of these studies include other treatment modalities or methods and the benefits are ,therefore, not clearly derived only from CMT.  A recent study has tried to clear this up and the results are very interesting!

This study included two chiropractors and two a physical therapists (PT) from Canada and the US. What is unique about this study is that they measured clinical or symptomatic improvement by tracking improvement in activity tolerance using a standard questionnaire commonly used by chiropractors and PTs all over the world, as well as changes in the spinal stiffness using a valid/reliable instrument before and after CMT was utilized. The importance of these findings is that only CMT was utilized and hence, other forms of treatment commonly utilized by chiropractors did not cloud the findings. There were 48 patients included in the study and the initial 2 treatments were administered 3-4 days apart, followed by an assessment 3-4 days after the 2nd treatment. Assessments were also performed before and after each treatment. The assessments included use of the questionnaire and a stiffness measurement using the special instrument. Also, “recruitment of the lumbar multifidus muscle” (a muscle in the low back that helps stabilize the trunk or core) was measured by ultrasound. After each treatment, significant improvement was found in the overall pain level and in reduced spinal stiffness (which remained improved 3-4 days after the last/second treatment).

The study conclusions revealed less pain, more activity tolerance and less spinal stiffness after the administration of the 2 treatments. The greatest clinical improvement was found in those who had the most dramatic reduction in stiffness after each treatment. They found that the level of muscle recruitment was directly related to the degree of spinal stiffness.  They also found that patients who received thrust manipulation (CMT) had immediate improvements with reduced pain, stiffness and improved muscle recruitment measurements. However, this same effect was NOT obtained when non-thrust mobilization techniques were used. This means many non-thrust manual techniques such as mobilization, massage, and other soft tissue release methods do not create the immediate benefits that were produced by thrust manipulation.

With this new information, we are now able to explain with confidence to patients the reasons why they typically feel better after the spinal adjustment. The patient can then appreciate receiving an answer that makes clear sense and has been “proven.” It’s important to realize that the “bonus” of receiving chiropractic care for low back pain includes not only just pain reduction, but more importantly, improvement in tolerating activities such as vacuuming, washing dishes, golfing, walking and of course, working.

            We realize you have a choice in who you choose to provide your health-care services.  If you, a friend or family member requires care for low back pain, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.

To schedule an appointment with one of our San Francisco Chiropractors call 415-392-2225. Mention this blog post for a complimentary consultation.

Scott Calzaretta

Chiro-Medical Group is an innovative collaboration of health care professionals who work together as a team to promote optimal health. Our group includes experts in the fields of medicine, chiropractic, physical therapy, massage, nutrition, and personal athletic training.

More Posts - Website

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