Clinical outcome from mechanical intermittent cervical traction for the treatment of cervical radiculopathy: a case series

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2001 Apr;31(4):207-13. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2001.31.4.207.


Study design: Case series.

Objective: To describe the clinical outcomes of 15 patients with cervical radiculopathy treated with mechanical intermittent cervical traction.

Background: Effectiveness of traction for the treatment of cervical spinal syndromes is controversial and the outcome of this treatment has not been established in the literature.

Methods and measures: Fifteen patients (45.5 +/- 13 years) completed a course of treatment using mechanical intermittent cervical traction. Eleven patients presented at baseline with radicular symptoms of 12 weeks duration or less, and 4 patients had long-standing radicular symptoms lasting more than 12 weeks. Outcome was measured using the Neck Disability Index (NDI) and the Numeric Pain Rating Scale (NPRS).

Results: Eight of the 15 cases (53%) in this series demonstrated complete pain resolution; these patients had symptom duration of 12 weeks and less. Seven of these 8 cases displayed a final NDI of 10% or less. Three out of 4 of the patients with symptom duration more [corrected] than 12 weeks showed no reduction in pain or increased pain rating, with minimal change in perceived disability of 12% or less.

Conclusion: In this case series, patients with radicular symptoms lasting for 12 weeks and less demonstrated a reduction in pain and perceived disability. The NDI, when used in conjunction with the NPRS, provides a more comprehensive assessment of the patient with cervical radiculopathy, thus allowing the clinician to make a better judgment about the clinical effects of cervical traction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Physical Examination
  • Radiculopathy / therapy*
  • Traction*
  • Treatment Outcome