What Does Neck Traction Help With?

Posted by Lucy Jones on

No one enjoys neck pain. It can be a distracting, frustrating, and prevent you from focusing on the tasks that you need to accomplish. Unfortunately, most people who experience neck pain don’t know what to do about it; they may take a few pain pills and try to wait it out – a temporary solution that doesn’t address the underlying problem.

In many cases, the best remedy is a process called cervical traction or neck traction. Traction is a simple procedure that involves stretching the head away from the neck, thereby eliminating or decreasing pressure on the spine. The best part about this treatment is that neck traction doesn’t necessarily require physical therapy appointments – with the right equipment, it can be done from the comfort of your own home.  

Those who attempt neck traction are quick to champion its fast-acting and long-term benefits. Learning how to incorporate neck traction into your self-care routine can greatly improve your overall bodily health and potentially eliminate those days where neck pain seems to be the only thing on your mind.  

Benefits of Cervical Traction

It’s often hard to identify the underlying cause of chronic neck pain. Because there are so many potential triggers, it can be difficult to identify lifestyle decisions that may be aggravating the issue. However, if you are experiencing tension and tightness in the neck area, traction will potentially alleviate the symptoms while you and a doctor attempt to figure out the root cause.

As a side note, quite often, simple corrections like improving your posture can go a long way in eliminating neck pain.

Muscle Relaxation

If your neck pain manifests as stiffness in the area, it’s possible that the surrounding muscles are overly tense. Neck traction helps stretch out these muscles by gently pulling the head away from the rest of the neck, thereby allowing the muscles to unwind and relax. As a result of this process, those who attempt neck traction also report greater flexibility in the area.  

  • Neck traction can eliminate stiffness in the area by stretching the muscles in and around the neck.

Manage Joint, Sprain, and Spasm Pain

If your neck pain manifests infrequent spasms or is the result of a past sprain, neck traction can directly treat the root issues. Often, these symptoms are the result of built-up tension, and by stretching out the vertebrae, you can target these problem areas.  

  • Manage pain resulting from minor injuries.
  • Target problem areas and minimize neck spasms.

Alleviate Bulging or Herniated Discs

Your spinal column is essentially a stack of discs – like poker chips piled in a stack, only with space between them. These discs can slip out of alignment when injured. When this happens, it’s known as a herniated, prolapsed, or slipped disc. In these cases, the disc can noticeably bulge, which can be a dangerous and problematic complication.

Speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms before attempting at-home treatment, but in many cases, your doctor will advise neck traction to treat this condition.

  • If you’ve slipped a disc or are experiencing a bulging disc, neck traction can help realign the spinal cord vertebrae.

Relief from Pinched Nerves

Pinching a nerve can be an incredibly unpleasant experience. Often, the pain does not stay localized and can spread into the shoulder area, even if the nerve was pinched in the neck. This can create a host of symptoms that should be addressed by a doctor.

Studies have shown that neck traction might help alleviate these symptoms and can facilitate recovery.

  • If you’ve pinched a nerve, neck traction might help with pain relief and alleviate some of the frustrating symptoms that accompany this injury.

Improved Range of Motion

Without even knowing it, many people experience a limited range of neck motion. Because they never stretch or massage the area, the muscles remain tense which makes it difficult to rotate the head comfortably. Neck traction can improve mobility in the area by helping to stretch out muscles and encourage spinal alignment.

  • Many people don't realize they have a limited range of motion in their neck.
  • Stretching out the area can improve range of motion and mobility.

How to Practice Neck Traction

While the benefits are plentiful and most people want to get started alleviating their neck pain right away, it's important to make sure you know how to attempt the procedure safely. The neck is an exceedingly sensitive and vital part of your body. If you attempt neck traction and don’t know what you’re doing, it is all too possible to seriously hurt yourself and, at the very least, aggravate your symptoms.

  • If you aren’t confident in your ability to attempt neck traction at home, please consult a healthcare professional. They will guide you through the process and will make sure that it’s done safely.
  • Physical therapists, trained in the process of cervical traction, will be able to measure patient progress, provide specific instruction tailored to their medical condition, and will help make adjustments if they’re needed.

Manual Neck Traction

Manual neck traction is cervical traction done with the aid of a physical therapist or another helpful party. In most cases, the person undergoing the process will lie down, and the physical therapist will gently take hold of the head and lightly pull. If done with the help of a healthcare professional, manual neck traction can potentially offer the most significant results. They will be able to make adjustments suited to your specific case while repeating the procedure.

Mechanical Traction

Similar to manual neck traction, mechanical traction requires the help of another party – preferably a physical therapist. Like over-the-door traction, it is conducted with the use of a harness that attaches to the head and neck area. Mechanical traction devices make it simple to make precise adjustments to your treatment, which allows you to focus on problem areas that might be more difficult to address without the help of another person.

At-Home Neck Traction

It’s possible to practice neck traction at home with the help of a special harness that surrounds the head and neck and attaches to the door frame. It can be done while lying down or sitting – standing is not typically recommended, as standing introduces the possibility of creating an unnecessary movement that might prove harmful.

If you have chosen to attempt neck traction from your home, consider consulting a physical therapist beforehand. In most cases, people who attempt this process themselves do so because they’ve been instructed to by their physical therapist.

Neck Traction Devices

Traditionally, neck traction was conducted with the aid of over-the-door devices and air traction devices. While these methods have helped some, they both contain drawbacks which can prevent someone seeking relief from harnessing the full range of benefits. By studying these systems and determining the best ways to improve their functionality, Neck Hammock has devised a system that combines portability and functionality.

Over-the-Door Devices

Just like the name implies, over-the-door neck traction devices require a door frame. They can help you practice neck traction in the comfort of their own home. A strap cups the chin and wraps around the back of the head, and then a pulley system helps gently life the head away from the neck.  

Air Traction Devices

For those who aren’t comfortable with over-the-door devices, air traction devices offer a gentle alternative. They look and operate like a neck brace. They are placed around the head and then inflated by using a hand pump. When you inflate the device, it begins to slowly push down on your shoulders and thereby lift your head slowly away from your neck.

Neck Hammock

The Neck Hammock comfortably cups the back of the head and holds it steady while facilitating the traction process. They are portable and can slip into any size bag, they are comfortable and provide extreme cushioning for the back of the head, and they are highly affordable. It’s possible to attach the Neck Hammock to several different apparatuses – which means you don’t need to harness an unwieldy traction device to a door frame. There is no pulley system, and it doesn’t require inflation.  

Is It Safe?

Is neck traction is safe? The short answer is yes. Almost every single person can attempt neck traction – there are no height or weight or age requirements – and the benefits can be attained no matter who uses a neck traction device. That said, every single person is different, and what might benefit one person might irritate the condition of another. While the majority of people can use neck traction devices, you should be cautious when you make your first attempt.

It's also important to note that neck traction is safe so long as the device is used correctly. If you misuse the neck traction system or attach it to a potentially unsteady surface, it’s possible to harm yourself. Pay close attention to the instructions that come with your neck traction device and make sure that you follow them precisely. If a physical therapist has recommended neck traction, make sure to follow their instructions as closely as you possibly can.

Side Effects

There are some potential side effects that people who want to attempt neck traction need to be prepared for. While side effects are generally predicated on preexisting conditions, it’s helpful to anticipate what might happen.

Some of the most common side effects of neck traction include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

If you begin to feel any of these symptoms, disengage from the neck traction system quickly and safely. When you begin using a neck traction device, you are moving your body in ways that it might not be used to. This may be the cause of the symptoms – and they may not return upon further use. However, if you feel that you’re going to faint or potentially pass out, remove yourself from the device.

Complicating Factors

There are certain complicating factors that might exclude you from the use of neck traction devices. While not all of these factors might disqualify you, if you experience or have a history with any of these problems, it would be prudent to discuss your neck traction plans with a doctor before use.

  • Osteoporosis
  • Cervical instability
  • Blockages with vertebrae or carotid arteries
  • Bone infections
  • Tumors around the neck area
  • Screws in your neck or shoulders as a result of surgery
  • Spinal hypermobility
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you suffer from any of these conditions, proceed with caution. While they don’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t attempt neck traction, they may lead to complications that would be greater than neck pain as a result of tension.


Neck traction, a form of cervical traction, can alleviate myriad symptoms associated with neck pain. If you suffer from stiffness, soreness, spasms, or have problems with discs in your neck, it can be a useful option that has fast-acting and long-term health benefits.

There are various devices that can assist you with neck traction. While physical therapists have traditionally helped people attempting the process, it can now be safely done in the comfort of your home – or on the road – with the aid of cervical traction devices like Neck Hammock. The portability of this device has revolutionized the ability to manage neck pain whenever and wherever you might be.  

While the benefits of neck traction are plentiful, it's essential that you take the necessary steps to ensure that you attempt the process safely. Carefully adhere to the instructions that you receive with your neck traction device, and if your physical therapist has recommended the process, make sure that you follow them as closely as possible. If you have any potentially complicating conditions, consult with health care professionals to make sure that neck traction will not aggravate your preexisting conditions. However, given the gentle nature of the process, it can be a welcomed addition to your self-care routine.