If you have been diagnosed with a bulging disc you might be wondering if traction is a type of treatment that might help control pain and speed up healing.

What is a bulging disc?

In between each vertebra there are discs that help to support the spine and absorb shock. The tough outer layer of the discs can become brittle and susceptible to damage over time. If a disc becomes flattened or compressed it can bulge out of the normal space it occupies between the vertebrae, out into the spinal column. This is called a bulging disc.

Treating a bulging disc with spinal traction

Physical therapists and chiropractors use spinal traction to help stretch the spine. Stretching the spine can help to create more space in between the vertebrae and the discs in the spine. The thought is that by creating more space, the disc can heal and return to its normal position, relieving the compression on the nerve root.

  • Manual spinal traction. A chiropractor or physical therapist performs manual spinal traction using their hands to elongate the spine. By stretching and pushing the muscles along the spine, the therapist can create space in between the discs and the vertebrae. If your symptoms are mild, manual spinal traction is a good choice of treatment.
  • Mechanical spinal traction. During mechanical traction, you lie on a table and an elastic strap is attached around your waist. The machine slowly and gently stretches your spine creating more space and your spine to align.

Traction, or spinal decompression treatment, has very few risks or side effects making it a good conservative treatment option for a bulging disc.

Bulging disc treatment

Bulging disc treatment is often most successful when a combination of conservative treatment options are used for a few months. In addition to spinal traction, consider the following conservative treatments:

  • Rest
  • Heat and ice therapy
  • Massage
  • Exercise and stretching
  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Lifestyle modification
  • Activity modification
  • Steroid injections

If conservative treatment fails to control your bulging disc symptoms after a few months, consult with your physician regarding bulging disc surgery. If left untreated, a bulging disc can lead to permanent muscle and nerve damage.