Nowadays, we can see that chronic neck pain it's one of the most common pain. As I say told in many other articles, including the American Chiropractor from 20 August 2020, the new epidemic it’s forward head posture. The main reason it’s working too much with our head bowed forward on our laptops. Our head, in general, has 10 pounds, the moment when we projected forward the weight, it’s increasing with each inch. In “normal” posture or working on our laptops, we put a pressure on our lower cervical spine ( -C5-C6-C7) between 45 and 55 pounds, and from here, the problems start.
The best solution is to have the right muscle balance offering the cervical spine the proper muscle support and don’t let the whole work and pressure on the disks and vertebras. In the Journal of Orthopedic Sports and Physical Therapy. 2004 Nov;34(11):701-12, Neck traction has been indicated for the treatment of patients with herniated disc and has been suggested to be helpful for patients with cervical disorders.
The primary purpose of the cervical traction is to create more space between the disks vertebras, reduce the neurological stress, and increase local metabolism. In Advances in Physiotherapy Volume 5, Issue 3 September 2003, pages 114 - 121, Evaluation of Effects of Cervical Traction on Spinal Structures by Computerized Tomography. "The herniated disc level was C5-C6 in eight of the patients. Changes following traction were: regression of herniated disc area, increase in spinal canal area (11.21 mm2), spinal column elongation between C2 and C7 (l.39 mm), and intervertebral discal space widening at the C5-C6 level. Cervical traction has a significant biomechanical effect on spinal structures, which can be demonstrated by CT evaluation before and after traction.
The good news is that we have access to many cervical traction devices, but the bad news is that not all of them have been developed by physical therapists in collaboration with doctors. They don,t respect the physiological curves of our head and the proper position of the spine for traction.
One of the icons of physical therapy is H. Duane Saunders PT, MS. Saunders is a leader in the field of clinical and educational physical therapy. A professional journal called him a "giant" in the field, lauding his contributions to research and development, clinical practice. He is the co-author of four textbooks used in more than 65 physical therapy schools and serves on the Kansas State University Foundation's board of trustees.
If we read the Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Secrets wrote by H. Duane Saunders PT, MS, Robin Saunders Ryan PT, MS, in 2006, they say about the Cervical angle—Cervical traction is performed with the head and neck in some degree of flexion. Some clinicians believe that the greater the angle of flexion, the greater the intervertebral separation in the lower cervical spine. While it is true that posterior separation does increase with more flexion, anterior separation decreases with flexion. In most cases, clinicians should try to achieve a combination of a posterior and anterior stretch. Thus the ideal traction device will flex the head and neck somewhat, but pull at a relatively flat angle. We recommend a 15-degree angle to accomplish this goal”
Others experts who talk about head flexion during cervical traction are, Dr. Joel Press and Deborah A. Bergfeld.
Dr Joel is the Physiatrist-in-Chief at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and Deborah A. Bergfeld, MD is
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Dell Medical School at UT Austin.
In 2007 Joel M. Press, Deborah A. Bergfeld, wrote in Clinical Sports Medicine about cervical traction “Cervical traction is used for a number of cervical spine injuries including cervical herniated nucleus pulposus, radiculopathy, strains, zygapophyseal joint syndromes, and myofascial pain. The main reason for its use is relief of pain”, about the angle of traction they said that “the optimal angle of pull (to obtain the most distractive force with the least weight) is 20–30° of head flexion.”
Using neck traction devices that sampling pulling your head up and don’t respect the medical recommendation can create more damage to your spine.
In conclusion, try to manage your neck pain with a cervical neck traction device, developed by specialists that respect the physiological curvatures of the head and mandible, and make the cervical traction in the safe and efficient mode at minimum 15 degrees.
I hope the articles help you understand how to choose the right cervical traction device.