Experts estimate 80% of people in the U.S. will experience back pain at least once in their lifetime with most seeking non-invasive and non-pharmacological treatments. A spinal traction therapy is a response to how components of the spine can become compressed, resulting in back pain and/or other symptoms. The purpose of a spinal traction therapy is to open space between the structures of the spine relieving the compression. The spinal traction therapeutic solution I offer is centered on craniosacral therapy, a type of bodywork that relieves stress and pain caused by compression in the discs of the spinal column.
What is spinal traction therapy?
Spinal traction therapy aims to decompress and thereby relieve pressure on the spine. Spinal traction therapies are used to treat lower back pain and neck pain, specifically, herniated discs, sciatica, degenerative disc disease, pinched nerves, and other similar conditions. Stretching the spine alleviates pressure off compressed discs by increasing the space between the vertebrae and preventing pain impulses from emerging. Decompressing the spine straightens the spine and:
- improves the body’s ability to heal itself due to a correctly communicating central nervous system
- improve spinal mobility through relaxing the musculature around the spinal column and decreasing mechanical stress
- reduces muscle spasm and spinal nerve root compression
- releases adhesions around the small joints in the spine
Who can benefit from a spinal traction therapy?
Spinal traction therapy should be considered by anyone coping with neck and or back pain symptoms due to herniated, bulging discs, centered on radiculopathy (pinching of a nerve at its root). This includes those with neck or back pain accompanied by numbness, weakness and/or electrical sensations that shoot down one leg or along one arm, likely caused by irritation to one or multiple spinal nerve roots.
Spinal traction therapy is well suited to treat spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal causing compression of the spinal nerve roots exit points at the sides of the spine through which spinal nerves pass on their way out to the rest of the body) and spondylosis (age-related wear and tear of the spinal discs).
There are numerous medically accepted uses for spinal traction therapies including:
- the mobilization of soft tissues or joints
- decompression of pinched nerve roots
- reduction of herniated intervertebral discs
The most common use of spinal traction therapy is for the management of spine instability, defined as damage to the spinal column (vertebrae, nerves, discs, or ligaments) either through disease or trauma, creating a malunion (abnormal position) or subluxation of a segment of the spinal column. Spinal traction therapy can be an effective means of decompressing and realigning the spine providing stabilization for a spine injury, and reabsorbing the herniated or bulging disc.
Many disorders are known to produce back pain, including those defined as compressive and or mechanical. Mechanical back pain generally originates possibly from an old injury or a degenerative process affecting muscles, discs, joints, and ligaments. Compressive pain originates from a compressed or irritated nerve root, via herniation of a disc, such as in sciatica or carpal tunnel. Spinal traction therapy stabilizes or adjusts the position of damaged areas of the spine and most commonly used to treat:
- slipped discs
- bone spurs
- degenerative disc disease
- herniated or bulging discs
- facet disease
- foraminal stenosis
- pinched nerves
- myofascial tightness
Manual spinal traction with craniosacral therapy
Craniosacral therapy is a non-invasive, manual treatment performed on the cranium (skull) and sacrum (triangular bone in the lower back) that’s effective in achieving optimal spinal traction therapeutic outcomes of widening or decompressing the spaces between vertebrae along the spine.
The term craniosacral therapy refers to how this treatment addresses abnormalities of craniosacral system and that includes cerebrospinal fluid, fascia and membranes running along the spine connecting to both the skull / cranium and sacrum. Cerebrospinal fluid is the fluid that surrounds, cushions and nourishes the brain and spinal cord. Fascia is a thin sheath casing of connective tissue surrounding every structure in the body including bones, tendons, joints, nerves, ligaments, organs, muscles, cells and more. Fascia restrictions within the craniosacral system lead to abnormal motion of the cerebrospinal fluid and disruption to cerebrospinal fluid flow, increasing pressure placed on spinal nerves resulting in tightness in connective tissues – and experienced with feeling a stiff neck for example. This can also contribute to problems including increased inflammation, fibrosis, inflexibility/reduced range of motion and chronic pain. Craniosacral therapy effectively decompresses the spaces between the spine’s vertebrae thereby allowing the central nervous system to manage the body’s own ability to self heal.
Craniosacral therapy involves applying the light pressure of a finger or both hands together to influence the membrane layers of the skull and spine containing the cerebrospinal fluid to improve it’s circulation throughout the body. The membrane layer (the Dura Mater) plays an important role in cranial bone movement. The bones in the skull are mobile, there is movement between the plates of the head bones and facial bones. This movement facilitates fluid flow and movement of the bony structures in an area of your skull and along the spinal column from the skull to the sacrum (the second to last bone of the spine). This is the mechanism that not only decompresses the spine but revitalizes spinal cord health, functioning, and healing.
My spinal traction decompression protocol includes manipulation of the bones of the sacrum and cranium to help reach deeper layers of cerebrospinal fluid and membrane. No mechanical devices are used and as a manual therapy, the hands and fingers are the only “instrument” applied and needed to innervate the central nervous system and promote the releasing of spinal vertebrae compression and membrane restrictions.
The craniosacral system is made up of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the skull (brain) and spinal cord. The underlying foundation of craniosacral therapy is that not only can manual palpation of the cranium detect the health of the cranial system, manipulative adjustments can be applied to resolve any spinal compression or restrictions and revitalize the functioning of the central nervous system. The body is capable of self-healing under the right circumstances – primarily a robustly functioning central nervous system. In addition to reducing pain and tension held in the back and neck, craniosacral therapy can increase someone’s understanding of their own “inner energy” and healing potential.
The spinal cord is both the lifeline and highway of communication between the body and the brain, not just anatomically, but also energetically. Unfortunately and particularly with New Yorkers, our desk jobs and poor posture coupled with our demanding lifestyles, all contribute to spinal compression and decreasing circulation to the cranial and sacral areas over time. Eventually what commonly follows is a spinal neural ‘traffic jam’ or communication disconnect between our brains and the rest of the body.
By decompressing the spine, especially near the occipital bones at base of the skull, I can treat with the aim to restore cerebrospinal circulation of the cranial and sacral regions where tension, restrictions, toxins, and inflammation often build up over time. The outcome is generally a return to balance and accurate communication within the spine and throughout the body – enabling a revitalized central nervous system to heal the body.
With targeted palpating (massaging) around the occipital bones and temporal areas of the skull, more oxygen rich blood can be circulated throughout the head, neck, brain and spinal cord. The improved circulation to the pineal gland and vagus nerve is essential to reestablishing the brain-body connection and activating the body’s self healing abilities. In the same way decompressing the sacral nerves in the lower back promotes improved vascular circulation and communication throughout the entire lower body and energy centers. This boosted circulation, energetic flow and cleansing of the cerebrospinal fluid enables the central nervous system’s self healing functioning to unfold. (Click here to learn more about vagus nerve health & treatment).
How spinal traction therapeutic outcomes are achieved with craniosacral therapy
The clinical benefits of CranioSacral Therapy achieving spinal traction therapeutic outcomes on the spinal column to decompress and relax the spine are outlined below, summarizing the natural progression of effects as they lead toward greater spine health and wellbeing.
Spinal Traction Soft Tissue Release
CranioSacral Therapy promotes the release and relaxation of restrictions and held patterns in the soft tissues including muscle and fascia tissue, discs, thorax, spinal nerves, glands, circulatory and lymphatic tissue, and the spinal and cranial dura and related membranes. Relaxation of the soft tissue involves allowing the entire myofascial spinal structure to decompress and regain functional symmetry.
Spinal Traction Structural Decompression
CranioSacral Therapy promotes musculoskeletal structure decompression, including joints, discs, sutures, and foramen (holes nerves use as passageways in vertebrae). Cranial nerves, particularly the trigeminal and vagus nerves, commonly produce dysfunction and pain throughout the body, physical & emotional, when impinged upon or disrupted by poor cranial system health. Decompression reduces articular (joint) surface and intervertebral disc degradation and irritation; nerve entrapment; pain, including referred pain; and structural musculoskeletal distortions which can also be causes of dysfunction.
Spinal Traction Structural Mobilization
CranioSacral Therapy promotes the mobilization of joints, organ and neuromuscular structures (muscles and the nerves connecting them), improving their balance and functional symmetry. Mobilization stimulates the nervous and endocrine systems creating and releasing essential hormones to maintain bodily functions. Endocrine tissues include the thyroid, pituitary gland, pancreas and others and also stimulates the body’s needs, affecting metabolism.
Spinal Traction Fluid Exchange
CranioSacral Therapy promotes vascular and lymphatic flow, distributes nutrients, antibodies, while flushing waste. It lubricates tissue, contributing to muscle fiber length and strength, and reducing tissue strain, boosting electrolyte distribution, temperature regulation, nervous system function, and cellular integrity are all enhanced. Increasing blood circulation to your spine relieves back pain by helping to reduce muscle stiffness, disc bulging and relaxing muscles.