Your health and wellness is an investment, without a doubt. Scheduling appointments, time off work, not to mention the cost of the actual treatment— we get it. And, if you’re in the midst of a longer treatment program, it can even start to feel routine— so much so, that you begin to wonder…could I do this on my own at home-?
We always encourage our patients to openly and honestly discuss their treatment plan, progress, and concerns with their practitioner. Healing from any condition or injury takes time and isn’t linear, meaning sometimes setbacks occur along the way or you may feel like you’ve plateaued and are not making any progress at all.
By nature, some treatments do take longer and do begin to feel familiar— neck traction is a great example. But we urge you, don’t attempt treatment on your own, particularly DIY neck traction. You could end up doing more harm and delaying your healing further with the wrong movements.
If you’re in the midst of neck traction therapy, this article is for you. We’ll address the role of neck traction, why it’s best to steer clear of at-home methods, and what exercises for the neck are safe to perform on your own.
Why Is Neck Traction Effective For Neck Pain?
Neck traction is a gentle, yet effective, treatment practice for common neck pain; medically it’s known as “cervical spondylosis.” Cervical spondylosis is a wear-and-tear injury, meaning it happens over time, most commonly as we age. The little jelly-like discs that act as cushions between the vertebrae in our spine slowly dehydrate over time, and as they do, it’s not uncommon for discomfort and pain to creep in– especially in the neck.
Think about resting your head on a pillow to fall asleep. Now, cut that pillow down to half of its original cushion. Your head doesn’t feel as supported, does it? It may be a bit more uncomfortable, and you probably feel more of the bed or surface beneath you that you didn’t previously notice. This is akin to what’s happening in your upper spine as you age; as our cushions (discs) deflate, we experience discomfort from the vertebrae getting closer together or even beginning to touch one another.
Your vertebrae getting more cozy with each other is not a great thing for pain management, which is why neck traction can help relieve the symptoms. Manual neck traction is performed by a medical professional. While the patient is lying relaxed on his back, the practitioner holds his head and neck and gently pulls his head toward him in a slightly rhythmic motion. This gives a gentle stretch to the neck area while offering some decompression to your upper spine– which can greatly relieve pain.
The Dangers of Performing Neck Traction at Home
Nowadays, there are countless products advertised for home medical treatments, including (you guessed it!) neck traction. You may have seen various neck slings on the internet and wondered if they could help with your neck pain.
In actuality, they could make matters worse. Though these devices partially mimic some of the movement patterns of neck traction, they do not take into account your personal history or any of the small yet impactful decisions that a professional uses to determine the intensity of their movements. Because of this, many people give themselves an at-home treatment that’s far too aggressive and end up with worse pain than before they started. When all is said and done, they’ve added to their problems— more discomfort, and they need even more medical treatment to correct their DIY therapy.
If you’re considering neck traction at home for whatever reason, we caution you: DIY slings are not effective and inherently carry risk factors. As the saying goes, “health is wealth.” While it may seem mildly inconvenient or even slightly expensive to make consistent appointments, the cost (and pain) of true injury from neglected health is much higher than preventative care in the first place.
Safe Neck Care For The Home
Though we recommend professional treatment when it comes to neck traction, there are some basic exercises that can help alleviate neck pain while at home. Most importantly: they’re safe.
Of course, before beginning any exercises at home, it’s best to consult with a medical professional to be sure this plan is best for your individual factors and pain points. And remember: with these exercises, use pain as a guide. If pain increases, stop immediately.
Shoulder circles are a great way to introduce a bit of mobility into your upper back and lower neck area. This exercise can be done while either standing or sitting. You’ll begin by raising your shoulders up towards your ears and then rotating them backward in a circular motion. Repeat this motion slowly and deliberately up to 10 times before switching the direction of your circles. This motion can actually increase both stability while providing a gentle stretch of your lower neck.
While sitting in a neutral position, slowly tilt your head toward one shoulder until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds before returning your head to neutral, then repeat on the other side. Move between this back and forth motion up to 5 times. You can repeat this same motion in the forward and backward planes as well. With this stretch, it’s important not to take the stretch too far. You’re aiming for a gentle stretch, not an aggressive one.
Hot and Cold Therapy
Try alternating between applying heat and ice to your neck— the heat will help get blood flowing, drawing some of the necessary healing nutrients to your injured area. It can also help to ease muscle tension. On the other hand, ice application can help to decrease inflammation in your neck, often a key aggravator in neck pain.
When alternating between hot and cold temperatures, only apply each in 15-20 minute increments, and give your skin a break for at least several hours before trying this therapy again.
The Role of Chiropractic In Neck Health
Chiropractic care is a safe and effective natural treatment option for neck pain. And, if you’re seeking out the neck traction method in particular, a chiropractic office is a great place to receive this care. Often, chiropractic visits for neck pain combine the use of neck traction along with gentle adjustments of your spine to help to realign your body and reduce nerve irritability. Receiving this treatment from a chiropractor is so effective in large part because of the individual care that your practitioner can provide in each appointment, taking your past health history and current healing patterns into account.
Consistent chiropractic treatment is also a great way to give your neck the extra care it needs to feel good, especially as you age. Your practitioner can play an integral role in offering the support that your body needs to operate at its best.
Prioritize your health now.