Understanding Flexion-Distraction Therapy for Back Pain

Understanding Flexion-Distraction Therapy for Back Pain


What is flexion-distraction therapy? It’s a type of chiropractic technique. It focuses on the spine, muscles, and connective tissues. To reduce back pain, this therapy is often used. It can relieve pain associated with herniated discs, sciatica, and spinal stenosis. Plus other types of back pain.

Let’s discuss its benefits and safety considerations. Learn more about flexion-distraction therapy.

What is Flexion-Distraction Therapy?

Flexion-Distraction Therapy is an approach for treating lower back pain and other spinal problems. It was developed by Dr. James M. Cox, D.C., D.A.B.C.O., a Chicago chiropractor in the 1960s and 70s. This is an alternative to surgery or taking strong drugs.

It uses a machine to stretch and stimulate the spine with slow flexing movements. Plus, a light distraction force is applied to the affected areas. This helps reduce pain and relax tight muscles.

It leads to a better alignment, balanced motion, and improved circulation. As a result, healing is promoted, and symptoms like sciatica or spinal stenosis are reduced. Spinal stenosis is when spaces in the spine narrow, which can cause leg pain, numbness, and difficulty walking. Radiating pain can also occur in the lower limbs, shoulders, and neck.

What are the Benefits of Flexion-Distraction Therapy?

Flexion-distraction therapy is a special kind of chiropractic care. A specialized table is used to treat acute and chronic spine problems. It stretches the spine and creates a vacuum effect. This decreases the bulges or herniation, relieves pain, and increases the range of motion.

The Benefits of this type of therapy:

  • Less back pain
  • More mobility and flexibility
  • Fewer muscle spasms
  • Speeds up healing time
  • Reduces inflammation in the injury area and joints
  • Reduces nerve root compression symptoms, like leg pain, numbness, weakness, or tingling.

How Does Flexion-Distraction Therapy Work?

Flexion-Distraction Therapy is a type of spinal decompression for low back pain and sciatica. It is gentle, with specific movements and positioning. It decompresses discs, mobilizes joints and reduces tension. With a traction table and proper force, it reduces inflammation and relieves nerve pressure. Improving joint mobility is the goal.

Let’s take a peek at what Flexion-Distraction Therapy does:

What are the Different Types of Flexion-Distraction Techniques?

Flexion-distraction techniques are used to help manage back pain. This therapy is based on the theory that spine issues are due to dysfunction in the spine. Flexion-distraction, also called Cox Technic, uses gentle and specific movements of the lumbar spine and pelvis in order to restore function, reduce muscle spasm, and ease pain.

The techniques used in flexion-distraction therapy depend on the patient’s condition. They usually involve positioning the spine with gentle pulls or pushes while flexing and extending the affected area. Manual methods may be used to address small areas of inflammation and discomfort.

Four primary types of flexion-distraction techniques exist:

  • Side posture distraction, which is used to target vertebral joints from a side position and helps restore nerve conduction velocity and reduce intradiscal pressure from disc nerve irritation or other disc pathology issues.
  • Posterior third point distraction force adjustment (PTPA), which applies a consistent spread tractioning force across vertebral joints during flexion via light pressure applied through fiberglass splints or leather straps.
  • Prone/prone rotation flexion/distraction (PPRF), which requires patients to go through a series of prone stretching including contralateral (pulling away from the affected side) and ipsilateral (pulling toward the affected side) traction while rotating slowly at the end range position.
  • Seated/supine distraction force decompression (SDFD), which uses alternating mechanical extensions with deep breath holds in an upright or seated position and applies up to pounds of stretch at each postero lateral corner vertebra site, eliminating viscoelastic blockages between exterior facet joint surfaces and restoring conduction velocity to normal levels.

Who Can Benefit from Flexion-Distraction Therapy?

Flexion-distraction therapy is a chiropractic treatment used to reduce back pain. This therapy involves gentle stretching and traction of the spine. It can be beneficial to most patients.

Who can benefit from it? Let’s find out! It increases movement and range of motion, so it is an effective treatment for many types of back pain.

What Conditions Can Flexion-Distraction Therapy Treat?

Flexion-distraction therapy is also known as Cox Technic. It’s a non-surgical approach for reducing and managing low back pain. It has been proved to help with sciatica, disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, and facet syndrome.

The technique works by using a physician-controlled flexion distraction table. This helps stretch the spine’s muscles and ligaments, allowing them to relax and restoring joint mobility. The aim is to reduce the pain and prevent future problems from arising.

This type of treatment can provide relief for numerous lower back pain issues. These include:

  • Acute lumbar strain/sprain
  • Pinched nerves
  • Slipped discs
  • Chronic degenerative back conditions

It can also help post-surgical patients for whom other physical therapies have failed.

Flexion distraction therapy is becoming increasingly popular among medical professionals. It typically offers lasting relief, which is why it is so highly regarded!

What to Expect During a Flexion-Distraction Therapy Session

Flexion-distraction therapy is a common treatment for spinal pain. This includes sciatica and herniated discs. You’ll lie on a table while the therapist applies gentle pressure to the affected area. They’ll also use certain movements to stretch and move your spine.

But, what should you expect during a flexion-distraction therapy session?

What is the Length of a Flexion-Distraction Therapy Session?

A flexion-distraction therapy session usually lasts around 30 minutes. The therapist begins by taking your vitals and asking about any other medical issues.

You’ll lie on your back on the “flexion distraction table”. The therapy has 3 steps: stretching, high velocity thrusts and low velocity thrusts.

In the first step, the spine is moved slowly to make it more relaxed and flexible. Deep breathing exercises help the mind to relax even more.

High velocity thrusts adjust spinal joints and discs. This increases mobility and lessens pain in areas affected by spinal conditions, like DDD.

Low velocity thrusts are a gentle massage to stimulate circulation in preparation for rehab exercises to strengthen the spine.

At the end of each session, you’ll talk to the physical therapist about changes and how to keep increased mobility.

Risks and Side Effects

Flexion-Distraction Therapy, also known as Spinal Decompression Therapy, is a way to treat chronic lower back pain. It’s relatively safe, but can have risks and side effects. To be aware of these, you must understand how it works. To prevent risks, be sure to follow your therapist’s instructions.

Are There Any Side Effects or Risks Associated With Flexion-Distraction Therapy?

Flexion-distraction therapy is usually safe, but precautions must be taken. Talk to your chiropractor about worries and questions before starting.

Certain people should think twice before choosing flexion-distraction:

  • Pregnant women
  • Those who had spinal surgery recently
  • Those with high blood pressure/heart disease
  • Cancer in the spine
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Acute bacterial infections of the upper respiratory system
  • Fractures of the vertebrae and/or herniated discs.

In general, the adjustment is safe when done by an expert. And there are normally no long-term side effects. But, make sure to check with your medical professional before doing a physical therapy that may involve risk.


Flexion-distraction therapy is a safe, non-invasive way to ease back pain. It’s particularly useful for those with spinal disc issues or radiating nerve pain. It reduces inflammation and improves healing by realigning the spine, restoring mobility, and decreasing muscle tension.

It usually requires fewer sessions than other therapy types and can restore normal movement patterns. It can be used alone or with physical rehab, massage, chiropractic adjustments, or medications.

If you’re considering flexion-distraction therapy, speak to your provider or physical therapist to discuss potential benefits and risks. With customised treatments based on your individual needs, you may be able to achieve long-term relief from your back pain!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is flexion-distraction therapy?

Flexion-distraction therapy is a non-invasive form of chiropractic treatment that involves gentle stretching and manipulation of the spine to relieve back pain.

2. How does flexion-distraction therapy work?

Flexion-distraction therapy works by increasing the space between the vertebrae in the spine, which helps to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that branch out from it. This, in turn, can reduce inflammation and improve circulation to the affected area, leading to decreased pain and improved mobility.

3. Is flexion-distraction therapy safe?

Yes, flexion-distraction therapy is generally considered to be a safe and effective treatment option for back pain, as long as it is performed by a trained and licensed chiropractor.

4. Who can benefit from flexion-distraction therapy?

Flexion-distraction therapy can be beneficial for anyone who is experiencing back pain, particularly those with disc-related conditions such as herniated or bulging discs, sciatica, or spinal stenosis.

5. How many sessions of flexion-distraction therapy will I need?

The number of flexion-distraction therapy sessions needed will vary depending on each individual’s condition and how their body responds to treatment. Your chiropractor will create a customized treatment plan for you that includes the recommended frequency and duration of each session.

6. What should I expect during a session of flexion-distraction therapy?

During a session of flexion-distraction therapy, you will lie face down on a special table that moves to provide gentle stretching and manipulation of your spine. The treatment is typically pain-free and relaxing, and most patients report feeling better after just one session.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

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