by Dr. Daniel Golger February 26, 2022 8 min read


Is Neck Traction Safe?


Today, millions of people across the country suffer from chronic neck and back pain. Because there are a wide variety of reasons as to why this lingering pain occurs, people have sought out an array of remedies to combat these uncomfortable symptoms. In recent years, one of the most common methods of treating neck or back pain has become the use of cervical traction, in which, tension is used to gently pull the head away from the spine.

Neck traction is a safe and effective way to treat some types of neck pain and is commonly used in many doctors and other medical professionals’ offices, including physical therapists, chiropractors, and even some general practitioners. However, you can have some of the same benefits of neck traction at home, as well thanks to the NeckFort™ Pillow - a safe and effective method for improving posture and treating neck and shoulder pain.

While there are different forms of neck traction, the NeckFort™ Pillow provides comfortable, and effective treatment for many types of neck, shoulder, and back pain. Neck traction is generally regarded as very safe and although it is not intended to replace physical therapy or medical supervision, it can be a simple and effective addition to other modalities of treatment for neck and back pain.

Reasons for Neck Tension and Pain

There are a wide variety of reasons why people experience chronic neck pain. Modern-day life creates more stress on the human body than previously experienced by past generations. Some of the stresses our bodies regularly encounter include:

  • Sitting in chairs or at desks all day long.
  • Stressful and pain-inducing situations at school and work.
  • Working long shifts on one's feet.
  • Driving long hours either in a city or across the nation.
  • Intensive athletic pursuits.
  • Staring down at your phone regularly.

Many people in our modern society experience these pains even more acutely because more than one of these conditions applies to them. For example, many office workers that sit in chairs and desks all day proceed to go to the gym and lift heavy weights directly after their long workday. Uber drivers or truck drivers often drive for many hours on end and repeat their shirts for days at a time, without taking multi-day breaks or even many breaks during their shifts.

While many of these situations do appear to cause physical stress on the body, there are also a variety of mental conditions that can cause neck and back pain. It is common knowledge that even stress and anxiety can cause neck and back pain, and humans are working longer and more stressful hours than ever before. Anxiety causes us to hold tension in our necks, which can contribute to painful nights and discomfort during the day as well.

Side Effects of Neck Pain

Besides neck pain itself, there are a variety of side effects that can emerge from dealing with constant and persistent cervical neck and back pain. It is no coincidence that people with chronic neck and back pain also complain of a variety of other symptoms, including:

  • Tension headaches
  • Toothaches and jaw pain
  • Increased anxiety and stress, which only adds to and compounds the issues

When these symptoms appear, it can be even more annoying and can exacerbate the underlying health issues.

These problems can contribute to long-term health problems for many people who leave them unaddressed. Over time, anxiety and stress can create even more serious health issues, including high blood pressure and sleep issues, which can further compound into decreased life expectancy and lower quality of life.

Although neck issues are often considered isolated, it is not true that neck problems are an isolated health issue. If left unaddressed, neck and back pain can contribute to difficult health issues which make life less manageable and enjoyable. In fact, when you consider all of the wide range of side effects of neck and back pain, the most unsafe option is to leave the neck and back pain unaddressed.

Neck Traction and its Benefits

Neck traction is a method of treatment that works by pulling the head away from the neck and spine. This can decrease compression of the spinal discs and increase the room between vertebrae, which ultimately helps to minimize the stress that can cause neck, back, and shoulder pain.

Neck traction is often employed by chiropractors, physical therapists, and other medical professionals in order to decrease the pressure in the spine and help relieve neck pain. It is often considered a safe, “alternative treatment,” to medication and surgery. As you might imagine, this is also much less expensive and intensive than the other options. While it is not the only option for people suffering from neck and back pain, it can be among the most effective for the price and level of commitment required.

Besides pain, neck traction can treat tension, tightness, and relieve the stiffness of the neck. It also may provide the added benefits of increasing flexibility and encouraging better posture. By creating space between the vertebrae, neck traction can help decrease compression in the cervical spine, which may come with all the benefits listed above.

Mental Benefits of Neck Traction

In addition to the physical effects of neck traction, there are a wide variety of mental benefits, as well. If you’re suffering from neck, back, or shoulder pain, the condition likely takes a toll on your everyday life. In addition to the pain itself, these conditions can “drive you crazy:” increasing anxiety, stress, and frustration.

Neck traction is intended to relieve neck and shoulder pain, and it often does! With this relief can come a number of mental benefits. People who receive any kind of pain relief from a number of conditions often report feeling decreased stress, general ease, and increased happiness. This relief can help the mentally anguished relax, perhaps for the first time in a long time (depending on how long they’ve been suffering from a painful condition.

Practicing Neck Traction

Neck traction is generally defined as applying pressure to the head in the direction away from the neck and spine. There are typically three types of neck traction:

  • Manual traction, the most common type of neck traction, is generally performed when a physical therapist, chiropractor, or other medical professionals use their hands and arms to manipulate the neck, pulling the head away from the spine and stretching the muscles of the neck along with the spinal components.
  • Mechanical traction, slightly more complicated, is often done using a variety of devices, again typically in the safety of a doctor's office. This type of traction is the most intense, often requiring specialized equipment and applying fairly intense traction to the spine and neck area. This type of traction is rather uncommon compared to the first type and is typically prescribed in serious or especially intense neck pain prognoses.
  • At-home (air traction) neck traction is easy to do at home and generally regarded as a gentle and safe treatment option for those with low-to-moderate neck and back pain. The most common type of neck traction device, of which the NeckFort™ Pillow is one, placed around your neck and allows you to take advantage of the benefits of neck traction in the comfort and safety of your own home.

Using Neck Air Traction

To safely use the NeckFort™ Pillow, it is critical that the instructions are followed carefully. These devices are completely benign when used as designed; however, there is a chance to injure oneself or aggravate current injuries if one does not heed the instructions. The first step is familiarizing oneself with the cervical traction device and making sure the guidelines make sense.

After becoming familiar with the method, you can begin to use the device. The “NeckFort™ Pillow,” should be placed around your neck. Adjust the straps so that the device sits comfortably between the base of the head and the top of the shoulders. Pump the device up with air until it is at the desired size and wear it for 10 to 20 minutes. Everyone has different preferences when using a neck traction device, so there is no right or wrong. Listen to your body and do what feels good.

As you get used to the feeling, and your neck becomes more accustomed to the stretch, you may feel more comfortable with more of a stretch.

Caution for Some People

Admittedly, there are some people who should not utilize neck traction as a treatment without supervision or recommendation from a medical professional. If you have any of the following conditions, you should be careful before using cervical neck traction at home:

  • Arthritis
  • Hardware leftover from surgery (for example, pins in your spine)
  • Recent neck or spine injury
  • A tumor in the vicinity of your neck
  • An infection of the bone or other infection in the neck
  • Vertebrae issues
  • Carotid arteries
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cervical instability
  • Spinal hypermobility

These conditions may prevent neck traction from being effective for you, and they may even make neck traction dangerous for you. Please do not use t the NeckFort™ Pillow or any other home traction device, if you suffer from any of these conditions.

It would be wise to consult a doctor or other medical professional if you are considering neck traction with any of these conditions, or if you have a desire to learn more about neck traction before starting treatment.

Safety of Neck Traction for Most Adults

For most people, neck traction is perfectly harmless and beneficial. If you follow instructions correctly and make sure that you are not one of the people who need to be careful using neck traction (be sure that you review the conditions above), you will be fine using neck traction as a treatment for your back, neck, and shoulder pain.

Much like leaning off the edge of the bed, or manipulating your neck by moving your head, neck traction is a natural and effective way to treat neck and back pain. In thousands of reviewed uses of neck traction, none have resulted in serious injury among persons with the typical varieties of neck and back pain. It is imperative that you review the instructions that come with your neck traction device (including the NeckFort™ Pillow, and do not use them in a way that was not intended.

Air cervical neck traction devices apply slight pressure to the neck region. Of course, if you do decide to use neck traction, remember that you are in control of your treatment. If you start to feel pain or discomfort, you should discontinue use of the device immediately and consult a doctor or medical professional.


If you suffer from neck or back pain, it is very possible that neck or spinal compression is the cause of this discomfort. There are a wide variety of treatments available to you, including surgery or medicinal treatment. These treatments come with a wide variety of risks and can be very expensive.

Among the safest and least expensive option is neck traction, which can be practiced by a medical professional or in the safety and comfort of your own home. Physical therapists and chiropractic treatment can be expensive. Neck traction at home can provide many of the benefits, relieving head and neck pain, and can even be the safest long-term option for your health. The safety of neck traction is generally undisputed, especially when compared with the other treatment options available.

Feel free to reach out to us at PT Vitals if you have any questions about treatment or if you’d like to learn more about our air traction device!!

- Written by MARY J. MURPHY, MS, PT'