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Chicago Physical Therapy - Intersegmental Traction

Intersegmental Traction

Intersegmental Traction is a particularly useful and effective therapy to treat and help prevent painful muscle spasms and muscle guarding specifically in spinal muscles.

Back Muscles

The back is a marvelous wonder.  There are many muscles in your back used singly or in combination to achieve a tremendous range of motion (forward flexion, lateral flexion, rotation, and extension).   In your core muscles there are small muscles (semispinalis, intertransversarii, interspinus, Rotatores, etc) connecting one vertebrae to the next and there are the muscles of the Erector Spinae (Iliocostalis, Longissimus, and Spinalis) which are longer and connect different sections together.  When fatigued, or affected by accident, injury, or repetitive stress, these muscles can spasm and can lead to chronic muscle guarding.

Vetebral Discs

In between the vertebrae there are shock absorbing structures called vertebral discs.  The outer layer of a vertebral disc (like the dough of a jelly donut) is comprised of multiple layers of annulus fibrosus which is a very tough fiber.  The inside of the disc contains nucleous pulposus (the jelly) which is really very jelly-like and contains about 90% water.
The vertebral discs cushion the vertebrae from movement and act as a shock absorber during more strenuous movements like walking or running.
When Back muscles are tight and spasming they can pull vertebrae out of alignment (because the muscles are attached to the vertebrae and they shorten during a spasm).  When vertebrae are out of alignment they may cause the vertebral disc to be displaced or in severe cases rupture which may lead to mild to severe pain.

Intersegmental Traction


Intersegmnetal traction is a great intervention.  Intersegmental traction is delivered through the use of a traction table.  It is a table that you lay down on (on your back) and there are rollers just underneath the surface of the table.  These rollers are adjusted for your condition and weight to gently and specifically elongate and stretch your spinal joints and muscles.  This benefits in reduction and prevention of muscle spasm and begins to reestablish normal range of motion for your spinal joints (each vertebrae).  When your muscles become more relaxed and vertebrae begin to move normally your vertebral discs now have their normal space and can return to their normal position and functioning.  This also helps to prevent abnormal wear and tear on the vertebral discs and vertebrae which in turn prevent further injury and reduce the arthritis process.