RESEARCH: Can Spinal Traction Help Rehydrate A Degenerated Disc?

Friday, August 14th, 2015

I can tell you from personal experience that spinal decompression has been a life-changer. It has been so incredibly effective, that it’s important to show what, where, how, and why through research. It’s never good to simply be forced to take a stranger’s word for it when you’re discussing spending a significant sum of money on a treatment option. That’s where more and more research can come into the picture to help us educate our patients and the public in general. When insurance doesn’t cover a service, it can be very difficult to make a patient understand the outstanding effectiveness of spinal decompression. It’s phenomenal but there seems to be a relationship in patients’ minds regarding insurance coverage and validity of the treatment. In other words, many times our patients seem to initially think that if the insurance company doesn’t cover a service (spinal decompression or cold laser) that it is probably of no use. 

Of course, this isn’t true. If you were an insurance company and you had to pay out on all of the services that doctors perform daily…..would you be in any hurry to add more new services to your tab? Insurance companies are in the business of saving and making money. Not figuring out ways that they can spend more of it. 

So, my way of educating patients and, with your help, the public, is to demonstrate the proof. Again, these research abstracts that I share weekly aren’t mostly performed and authored by chiropractors. These are government agencies, medical doctors, hospitals, colleges, Phd’s, etc. If you cannot believe the validity of these people’s findings, you need to ask yourself then, who CAN you ever believe?

Here’s one such research abstract I found for you. 

Why Did They Do It?
The goal here was to figure out the effect of traction (decompression) on the outer ring of the disc. Since decompression is conservative, certainly vs. surgery, it’s a good thing to know it’s effectiveness in treating the disc. The normal accepted benefits of traction/decompression have been an increase in the disc height, enlargement of the areas the spinal nerve roots pass through, and a decrease in the internal pressure of the disc itself. These are the benefits but they’ve not been investigated through research as thoroughly as they could be. 

How Did They Do It?

This part is copied and pasted from the original abstract for accuracy

  • 48 thoracic discs were dissected from 8 porcine spines (140 kg, 6-month old) within 4 hours after killing them.
  • They were divided into 3 groups: intact, degraded without traction, and degraded with traction. 
  • Each disc was incubated in a whole-organ culture system and subjected to diurnal loadings for 7 days. 
  • Except for the intact group, discs were degraded with 0.5 mL of trypsin on day 1 and a 5-hour fatigue loading on day 2. From day 4 to day 6, half of the degraded discs received a 30-minute traction treatment per day (traction force: 20 kg; loading: unloading = 30 s: 10 s). By the end of the incubation, the discs were inspected for disc height loss, annulus microstructure, molecular (fluorescein sodium) intensity, and cell viability.

What Did They Find? 

Transfer of molecules into and out of the disc decreased after degradation/degeneration of the disc. With traction treatment, however, the pores in the outer ring of the disc were opened up allowing for increased transfer of molecules, therefore allowing increased rehydration of the degenerated disc. This activity was not increased to the level of a fresh, brand new disc, but certainly increased from it’s previous condition.

Wrap Up
The authors of the abstract concluded, “Traction treatment is effective in enhancing nutrition supply and promoting disc cell proliferation of the degraded discs.”

This abstract was authored by: 
Kuo YW, et. al., Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2014 Apr 20;39(9):E550-6. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000000269.
It can be found here.

Just another reason to call a chiropractor TODAY

Research and clinical experience shows that, in about 80%-90% of headaches, neck, and back pain, in comparison to the traditional medical model, patients get good or excellent results with Chiropractic. Chiropractic care is safe, more cost-effective, it decreases your chances of having surgery, and it reduces your chances of becoming disabled.  We do this conservatively and non-surgically. In addition, we can do it with minimal time requirements and minimal hassle on the part of the patient. And, if the patient develops a “preventative” mindset going forward from initial recovery, we can likely keep it that way while raising your general, overall level of health!  

Please feel free to leave a comment and tell me your thoughts. I’d love to hear what you think. 

And….SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!!   We cannot make a difference without your help.

Till next time……

The Amarillo Chiropractor Blog is written by Dr. Jeff Williams.

Amarillo TX Amarillo Pain & Accident Chiropractic Clinic provides customized chiropractic care to the Amarillo, Canyon, Pampa, Happy, White Deer, Dumas, Groom, Conway, Panhandle, Claude, Clarendon, Borger, Tulia, Hereford, Fritch, Bushland, and Vega communities. Visit our main website at for customized Chiropractic in Amarillo TX.

Choose several options to schedule your appointment: call (806) 355-3000 or click the button below for our contact info.
by Jeff S. Williams, D.C.
Chiropractor in Amarillo
Accident Chiropractic
Creek Stone Integrated Care