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Extension – what it is, types and application

Extension or traction is a type of decompression therapy that relieves pressure on the spine.

ExtensiaWhat is extension therapy?

Traction of the lumbar region separates compressed vertebrae, freeing space between them. This “splitting” of the vertebrae helps to reduce the pressure on the pinched nerves, relieve pain, and increase and improve mobility.

In what diseases is extension applied?

As just mentioned, the extension stretches the spine to reduce the pressure on the vertebrae and intervertebral discs. Therefore, this therapy is useful for people who experience pain due to:

  • Disc herniation
  • Pinched nerves
  • Backache
  • Headache caused by damage to the vertebrae of the spine
  • Prolonged muscle spasms and cramps
  • Pain in the neck
  • Contusions and fractures
  • Pain caused by a pinched the nerve root
  • Rickets
  • Spinal deformities in childhood
  • Sciatica
  • Facet disease

In what diseases is traction (extension) is not recommended?

  • Acute inflammatory diseases and processes in the abdominal cavity
  • Ulcers and unclosed wounds
  • Infectious diseases
  • Severe deforming spondylosis and spondyloarthritis
  • Scoliosis in childhood
  • Hypertension with pronounced atherosclerotic changes in blood vessels
  • Benign and malignant tumors and their metastases

Types of extension

  • Manual manipulation

This manipulation is performed by a physiotherapist who uses his hands to separate the vertebrae of the spine, which brings relief to the patient. Manual extension can sometimes be painful, so it is good for patients to be aware in advance of the stages and manner in which this therapy is administered.

  • Mechanical manipulation

In mechanical therapy, weights and splints are used, with which the legs and arms held stationary. This type of traction (extension) is performed by the patient lying on a table on his back, on his stomach or “hanging” (according to the disease and relief to be achieved). The procedure is performed with the help of a special device, on which the traction time and the pulling force are increase with each subsequent visit to the therapist.

Mechanical therapy also includes inversion table exercises, in which the patient lies on the inversion table and uses gravity to stretch the spine.

Types of positions in extension

According to the degree and type of the disease, the positions used in the extension therapy are:


In this position, the patient hangs in the air or is immersed in water (water extension). The body is upright, and his legs and chest are fastened with special belts. If the pain is in the neck area, a special splint can be placed. The vertical extension helps with:

  • Backache
  • Back pains
  • Headache caused by vertebral disorders
  • Treatment of disc herniation


The horizontal extension is applied as the patient lies on a special table, which is fitted with plates that are spaced apart. This type of therapy is recommended for people suffering from:

  • Spinal pain
  • Problem with intervertebral discs
  • Prolonged spasms

Traction (extension) at an angleракция

Angle therapy is performed on a special table at an angle (under water or dry) or with an inversion table. The patient is placed in a special position with his chest forward and his head tucked into his body. Angular extension helps to relieve and treat:

  • Disc herniation
  • Muscle spasms
  • Back pains
  • Backache
  • Spinal pain
  • Neck painextensia

How long does decompression therapy last?

Depending on the type and extent of the disease, a decompression therapy procedure can last from 15 to 30 minutes. After the extension, the patient remains lying on the table for a short time before getting up. Usually the course of treatment by extension is carried out for several days (every other day) and is combined with additional therapeutic exercises.

When is the relief felt?

Again, depending on the type and extent of the disease, pain relief can be felt even after the first one – two procedures. Extension patients say that the separation of the vertebrae of the spine helps them regain their shape very quickly and feel strong and energetic again.

Advantages of extension

Stretching (decompression) of the spine has a positive effect on the entire musculoskeletal system. Through decompression therapy:

  • The distance between the vertebrae increases and the pressure of the intervertebral disc decreases.
  • It affects the ligaments and muscles of the spine, which helps to relax the muscles of the back and reduce the load on the vertebrae.
  • Blood circulation is normalized

It is important to know:

Improperly chosen methods of extension can lead to unforeseen complications. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that before the patient undergoes traction, a specialist doctor visits to perform the necessary examinations and tests. Once all the tests have been done and the exact cause of the pain symptom has been determined, the doctor makes recommendations for both the type of therapy and the time at which it should be performed.

A brief history of decompression therapy

This method of treating spinal diseases has been used since ancient times. There is evidence that as early as the fifth century BC, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, used extension to successfully treat back and lower back pain. The method of stretching that Hippocrates used is known as the “Hippocratic position” and involved manually stretching the patient by four doctors

Fortunately, modern methods of decompression therapy use much more painless practices such as dry and water extension, and inversion tables with full body rotation, and more.

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