We’ve recently been getting more questions about home traction devices for lower back pain. The goal of traction is to stretch the spine lengthwise to create more space for pinched nerves. There is some compelling research that suggests this type of force can make a significant difference for patients with pinched nerves due to degenerative problems or disc herniations. That’s the basis of the spinal decompression unit that we regularly use in our office. Add to that the fact that a nice stretch usually feels really good and you can see why people would be interested in getting that feeling everyday! Two types of devices in particular have garnered interest from our patients. One is a type of belt that is designed to create a lengthwise stretch while in a seated or upright position. This device may feel good because squeezing tight muscles does tend to create relief, but it really can’t deliver any meaningful traction of the spine itself. Gravity will surely overcome any affect the squeezing may try to create. The other type of device that we get asked about quite a bit is an inversion table. An inversion table works by swiveling you upside down so that your body weight and gravity do the work of creating space between the bones of your spine. Varying degrees of inversion help to control the amount of pull. The feedback we get from our patients has been fairly positive with these types of devices. Certainly the physics of it make sense. But it’s not for everyone. People who are prone to migraines or dizziness, patients with ankle or lower leg pain, high blood pressure, hernias, glaucoma, and people with a history of stroke or fainting spells should not use inversion tables. If you do not have any of these conditions, an inversion table may be worth a try. But by far the safest and most effective way to decompress the spine is with a spinal decompression table. Decompression tables like the one we use in our office allow the patient to be stretched while lying on his or her back, with the knees bent in a much more comfortable position. The sophisticated traction head allows us to control many more parameters of treatment, which then optimizes results. And people with high blood pressure, eye conditions, migraines and ankle pain can still safely benefit from the treatment. Patients certainly have some choices when it comes to traction. But regardless of which home device you may be interested in, always be sure to speak to your chiropractor first.