Spondy’s And Traction: What Should You Do?

As our spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis website continues to grow we continue to get great questions from readers of all ages, backgrounds and conditions. Many of the questions we get are specific to the individual, but there are many that could go a long way in helping others.

The question below is one that has been asked in many different ways and our answer could be one of those that may provide some insight to others.

Traction is a term that leads too many questions when it comes to not only back pain, but also spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis related back pain. Many are confused on whether traction is for them and of the benefits it provides. We receive several questions regarding traction and we thought posting our answer to a traction question might provide some insight for others who have this question on their minds. 

For those of you who are not familiar with traction lets provide a very brief, basic description. Traction is basically a form of modality or treatment used by some therapist, chiropractors or spine specialist that uses pressure to create space in between vertebrae for nerves or to relieve pressure on cartilage discs or joints themselves (again, this is a very basic description).

Many of you already know that we are BIG believers in the role of education when it comes to finding relief from you spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis and the answer below does a great job in providing some knowledge.

The answer provided comes from Spondyinfo.com’s Co-Creator Todd Bitzer. Todd is a physical therapist who is board-certified in orthopedics by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties and is certified in the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA), and Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN). He has worked with clients of all ages with non-traumatic orthopedic injury, traumatic injury, and following surgery.

Along with contributing to this site and actively helping those with spondy’s, Todd is also the owner of Modern Athlete Physical Therapy LLC, an out-patient orthopedic physical therapy clinic located in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

Modern Athlete PT

If you live anywhere near Buffalo Grove, Illinois (about 20 miles North West of Chicago) I highly encourage you to give Todd a call for your therapy needs. Todd’s clinic offers one on one therapy that is second to none. Also, make sure to give Todd’s website and facebook page a visit. He offers a ton of great information.

The question below comes from one of our readers and was not edited in any way…..


“My MRI showed of course the grade one spondylolisthesis, complete loss of disk space L4 L5 and S1, Also a central spinal stenosis. I was wondering about traction, and or laser acupuncture…My MD just read me the report over the phone, and said I need to see a spinal surgeon, not ready for that. My chiropractor took the time to explain in detail everything on the MRI, and has my pain under control. Just wondering about traction the most from a pt stand point. Thank you


“Great question. I think the most important statement you made is that your pain is under control. I hope that means that any other symptoms are also under control (i.e., numbness, pins and needles, muscle weakness due to nerve compression) and there are no bowel or bladder issues due to the central stenosis. If these are true, then you do not have any emergent needs for more invasive procedures such as surgery – the spine surgeon may state the same thing. (As always, it is suggested to seek multiple opinions when the need for surgery is in question)

As far as continuing conservative management of your symptoms, there isn’t any one method that will work for all people. Some methods have better track records than others in general, but in my opinion it is sometimes the talent / knowledge of the practitioner that produces successful outcomes when using various methods.

I’m specifically referring to the use of traction. The research to date shows poor overall results with traction. My brief attempts at using it have not been worthwhile in my practice, but I must also state I haven’t put any effort into advanced training concepts in using traction. However, some practitioners swear by it, and may have developed an effective protocol that has not yet been put through the rigors of research. Keep in mind, that research articles typically describe the use of a modality like traction in very specific terms, and a practitioner may be utilizing traction by different terms and therefore getting different results.

In my opinion, a mixture of treatment modalities is probably best when it comes to resolving pain complaints with a complex history. Degeneration at the discs (the loss of disc space you mentioned) means your treatment will likely fit into this “complex” category. Traction alone, or laser acupuncture alone, or any treatment modality used alone will likely be ineffective. But a knowledgeable practitioner who utilizes these in addition to other treatment methods to restore healthy movement patterns may be your answer.”

Hopefully this answer will shed some light on the traction questions that many of you have.

Again, as Todd stated, there is no one method that will work for all people. And it sometimes is the talent/knowledge of the practitioner that produces successful outcomes when using various methods. It is also important to understand that sometimes the best answer when finding a form of pain relief is a combination of treatment methods, not just one method.

We would love to hear any comments or experiences you have had with traction. Please chime in below with questions and or comments!

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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

  1. Josephine Sustek
    4 years ago

    Thank you for your reply, about traction,Computor was down a few days.I really enjoy this page.

    • Spondy
      4 years ago

      No problem Josehine! It was a great question and I am so glad you enjoy the page. I hope it helps you find relief along the way.

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