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Neck Traction for Pain Relief

Neck Traction: The Best Cervical Traction Devices to Ease Neck Pain

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.

The 5 Best Types of Neck TractionNeck pain affects 30%-50% of adults in the United States, which if thought about in depth, is quite a large number! Potentially HALF of the people that you know may be suffering from some kind of neck pain. Not only is the prevalence of neck pain quite high, but somewhere between 50%-85% of people with neck pain do not achieve full recovery of symptoms (2). These people may go on to experience chronic neck pain that may limit working, sleeping, and daily activities such as lifting. Try to drive, lift, reach, or work at a computer with neck pain, it’s difficult. One of the best ways to help with neck pain at home in the short term is Cervical Traction. 

Name Picture Price Best Feature Our rating Best Price
Comfortrac Deluxe Traction Kit $$$ One of the best overall, excellent results and easy to use. 9.6/10 See Current Price
Everyway4All Evertrac Neck Traction $$$ Best overall model for serious neck problems. 9.7/10 See Current Price
Gideon Cervical Neck Traction $ Least expensive and you can move around with it on your neck 8.6/10 See Current Price
OTC Cervical Traction Kit $ Inexpensive and works in a comfortable sitting position 9.4/10 See Current Price
The Original Neck Hammock $ Inexpensive and effective. We love the portability 9.5/10 See Current Price

What is Cervical Traction

Cervical traction is a light stretching of the neck performed either mechanically or manually by another person. Within the cervical spine there are seven vertebrae that have soft shock absorbing discs separating the bony vertebrae. On the backside of the vertebrae are also small joints called Facet Joints that help load bear and maintain stability of the head and neck. The spinal vertebrae are then surrounded by many layers of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The primary role of the cervical spine is to protect the spinal cord at all costs.

Cervical traction, whether it be manual or mechanical, may also be warranted to help with Cervical Radiculopathy. Cervical Radiculopathy is described as pain and neurological symptoms that extend from the neck into the upper extremities. When a nerve that exits the cervical spine becomes impacted, encroached on, or simply even irritated it may cause pain and symptoms in the area of innervation. This means that an injury in the neck may cause pain or symptoms down the arm. When the nerve is irritated, one of the simplest ways to provide relief is to give the nerve more space and reduce the pressure on it. This is achieved from traction.

How Does Cervical Traction Help

Not only does neck traction decrease pain, but cervical traction increases the space between vertebrae, lightly stretches muscles and ligaments, increases movement of cervical joints (3) widens intervertebral foramina or area where the nerve exits (4), may decrease pressure on injured tissue, relaxes muscle guarding and spasm, changes intervertebral disc pressures, and tenses the posterior longitudinal ligament which is the primary posterior support in the spinal canal (5). Different types of neck pain and potential causes of cervical radiculopathy

* Cervical traction is only part of the treatment! You will likely also need to exercise, stretch, strengthen, and perform a home program in addition to any pain relief achieved through traction.

See our helpful guide on managing neck pain home by clicking here. 

What are the Side Effects of Cervical Traction

Cervical traction can be dangerous if not used properly. Before using a traction device please contact a health-care professional or physical therapist to properly be screened. Use the device only as intended and specified in the manual. Never modify the units and alert the manufacturers if there are any malfunctions.

When using cervical traction it is always best to start with less weight and pull. Then gradually increase the pressure as tolerated. It is not uncommon for users to use too much pressure initially and induce a negative effect.

Potential Side Effects of Spinal Traction:

  • Muscle soreness immediately or hours after
  • Potential difficulty rotating head
  • Potential increase in symptoms
  • Potential increase in muscle spasms
  • May cause a headache
  • Contact a health-care provider if any symptoms last longer than 72 hours after use or continue to worsen

FAQ for Neck Traction

How Long Should I do Neck Traction?

Depending on how flared-up the neck is you can use it as little as 5 minutes on low to 20-30 minutes on moderate pressure. The most important thing is to make sure that the stretch isn’t so great that your muscles are guarding during the treatment.

How Often Should Use Cervical Traction?

You can perform cervical traction multiple times a day if needed. If you have severe chronic neck pain we recommend using daily for about 20-30 minutes either early in the morning or before going to bed. 

Can Neck Traction Cause Nerve Damage or Dizziness?

No, not likely. If you do experience symptoms down into the arms after using cervical traction then you likely only irritated a nerve or disc that was already injured. There isn’t enough force or trauma to cause a new injury. 

In terms of causing dizziness, it can cause temporary dizziness but this is rare. By stretching nerves and muscles there is a potential. One more likely cause of causing dizziness is getting in/out of the traction unit with changing your head position. 

Is Neck Traction Painful?

It should not be painful during or after cervical traction. The purpose of traction is provide pain relief and relieve pressure on the spine. If it hurts then check to make sure you are using the traction device correctly.

How to Use Mechanical Neck Traction

The Best Cervical Traction Devices

Best Classic Cervical Traction: ComforTrac Deluxe Cervical Traction Kit

Summary: The ComforTrac Cervical Traction Unit is one of the best overall value traction units. Easy to use, comfortable, and durable in construction. Comes with a push-of-a-button quick release pump, a maximum of 50 pounds of force, and contouring memory foam headrest that cradles the head while independently adjustable neck wedge.The ComforTrac Cervical Traction Unit has an adjustable incline of 10, 15 and 20 degrees to target different areas of the neck. Also comes with a lightweight durable carry-case.

The ComforTrac has been rigorously tested  for 15,000 cycles which equals using 3 times daily for 15 years.

Comfortrac Cervical Traction for neck pain

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Best Overall: Everyway4all EverTrac CT800 

Summary: The ComforTrac Cervical Traction Unit is one of the best overall value traction units. Easy to use, comfortable, and durable in construction. Comes with a push-of-a-button quick release pump, a maximum of 50 pounds of force, and contouring memory foam headrest that cradles the head while independently adjustable neck wedge.The ComforTrac Cervical Traction Unit has an adjustable incline of 10, 15 and 20 degrees to target different areas of the neck. Also comes with a lightweight durable carry-case.

The ComforTrac has been rigorously tested  for 15,000 cycles which equals using 3 times daily for 15 years.

Everyway4all traction unit

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Least Expensive Cervical Traction Option: Gideon Cervical Neck Traction Device 

Summary: The Gideon Cervical traction is one of the best options for inexpensive pain relief. This type of traction is 3 air filled chambers that you can hand pump to a desired pressure to achieve pain relief. We like it because it’s inexpensive, you can use it anywhere, and is extremely easy to use. If you get good results may indicate you would benefit from other higher end models.

Gideon Cervical Traction pillow

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Best Over the Door Traction: OTC Over Door Cervical Traction Kit 

Summary: The OTC brand over the door cervical traction kit is easy to use and can be the most comfortable traction for people that have difficulty lying down. Used to relieve pressure on muscle, nerve tissue and pain in the cervical spine. The water reservoir can be filled from 2 lbs. to 20 lbs. To note is that this is not the best option for anyone that TMJ dysfunction or jaw problems.

OTC over the door neck traction unit

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Best Bang for the Buck: The Original Neck Hammock

Summary: The Original Neck Hammock is inexpensive but yet effective for most neck problems. The manufacturers recommend needing only 10 minutes a day for adequate relief. The hammock itself is comfortable and easy to use. We love that it packs up small and you can take it on business or vacation trips. The only draw back is you have to be able to lie on the floor so for those that have difficulty getting up and down that could be an issue.

The Original Neck Hammock Neck Traction

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In Review of Neck Traction Units

There are many different types of neck traction units that range from the heavy duty classic versions to the inexpensive cervical pillows and neck hammocks. A cervical traction unit is a great way to take care of neck pain at home in between your busy schedule and regular doctor appointments.

Works Cited

  1. Carroll LJ, Cassidy JD, Peloso PM, et al. Methods for the best evidence synthesis on neck pain and its associated disorders: the Bone and Joint Decade 2000–2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders. Spine. 2008;33:S33–S38. [PubMed]
  2. Carroll LJ, Hogg-Johnson S, van der Velde G, et al. Course and prognostic factors for neck pain in the general population: results of the Bone and Joint Decade 2000–2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders. Spine. 2008;33:S75–S82.  [PubMed]
  3. Graham N, Gross A, Goldsmith CH, et al. Mechanical traction for neck pain with or without radiculopathy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;3: doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006408.pub2. PubMed – https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006408.pub2/full
  4. Borman P, Keskin D, Ekiei B, Bodur H. The efficacy of intermittent cervical traction in patients with chronic neck pain. Clin Rheumatol. 2008;27:1249–1253 doi:10.1007/s10067-008-0895-z. PubMed 
  5. Knight Kl, Draper DO. Spinal traction. Therapeutic Modalities: The Art and Science. 2nd ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippencott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:382–399
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