At Alton Pain Clinic we offer Spinal Decompression Therapy using mechanical traction which involves stretching the spine along its long axis, using a motorized device, with the goal of relieving back pain and/or leg pain. This technique is called non-surgical decompression therapy (as contrasting to surgical spinal decompression, such as laminectomy and microdiscectomy) and is very effective in treatment of lower back pain, neck pain, herniated discs and/or pain originating from nerve compression like sciatica.

Concept of Spinal Decompression

Both traction and decompression therapy are applied with the goals of relieving pain and promoting an optimal healing environment for bulging, degenerating, or herniated discs and compressed or pinched nerves due to narrowing of their spinal passages by:

  • Creating a negative intra-discal pressure to promote retraction or repositioning of the herniated or bulging disc material.
  • Distraction of vertebral bodies and facet joints creating space between adjacent levels.
  • Widening of inter-vertebral foramen allowing more space for exiting nerve roots.
  • Stretching of spinal ligaments and musculature.
  • Creating a lower pressure in the disc that will cause an influx of healing nutrients and other substances into the disc.

How Spinal Decompression Therapy Work

In non-surgical spinal decompression therapy, the spine is stretched and relaxed intermittently in a controlled manner by motorized mechanical traction to achieve aforementioned benefits.

Spinal Decompression Session

During spinal decompression therapy for the low back, patients remain clothed and lie on a motorized table, the lower half of which can move. A harness is placed around the hips and is attached to the lower table near the feet. The upper part of the table remains in a fixed position while the lower part, to which the patient is harnessed, slides back and forth to provide the traction and relaxation. The patient should feel no or minimal pain during the decompression therapy, although they should feel stretch in the spine.

Treatment Series

Decompression treatment typically consists of a series of 10-15 sessions, lasting 15 to 30 minutes each, over a four to six-week period. Sessions are conducted by physiotherapist or our Osteopath in clinic. Recommendations may also include drinking up to a half-gallon of water per day, rest, utilizing nutritional supplements, and/or performing exercises at home to improve strength and mobility.

Who Can Benefit from Traction

Spinal decompression is an alternative therapy designed with the goal of alleviating pain and promoting healing of the intervertebral disc.


The indications for spinal decompression therapy are relatively broad. It is often recommended as a treatment for many types of lower back pain, sciatica (leg pain from nerve origin). It is most commonly used to treat:

  • slipped discs
  • bone spurs
  • degenerative disc disease
  • herniated discs
  • facet disease
  • sciatica
  • foramina stenosis
  • pinched nerves


Stretching the spine to relieve back pain is not appropriate for some patients. The following groups of people should not undergo non-surgical spinal decompression:

  • Pregnant women
  • Patients with vertebral fractures
  • Patients who have had spinal fusion
  • Patients who have an artificial disc or other implants in their spine
  • Patients with failed back surgery
  • Anyone who has had multiple surgeries without recovery (pain improvement)
  • Osteoporosis, or osteopenia
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spinal infection
  • Spinal tumour
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Any condition that may compromise the integrity of the spine
  • Any condition requiring the patient to take blood thinner medication