Current use of lumbar traction in the management of low back pain: results of a survey of physiotherapists in the United Kingdom

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2005 Jun;86(6):1164-9. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2004.11.040.


Objective: To identify the current use of traction and the types of patients, treatment parameters, and treatment modalities used in conjunction with traction.

Design: Postal survey, with 4 sections: professional characteristics of respondent, current use of traction, patient selection, and treatment parameters.

Setting: Musculoskeletal outpatient departments (private and nonprivate practitioners).

Participants: Random sample (N=1491) of chartered physiotherapists in the UK who work in the management of low back pain (LBP).

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Descriptive analysis of information on current use and practice in applying traction.

Results: A response rate of 83% (n=1239) was achieved; 41% (n=507) use lumbar traction, which is most commonly used in the management of subacute LBP patients presenting with nerve root symptoms. Treatment parameters were established for weights (5-60 kg), frequency (2-3 times weekly), and length of treatment (4 wk). In addition, traction is commonly used with other modalities (87%): mobilizations, advice, and exercise.

Conclusions: Survey results show the continued use of lumbar traction despite the recommendations of numerous guidelines. Results also clarify the types of patients and the parameters used in the application of traction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Patient Selection
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Physical Therapy Specialty*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Traction / adverse effects
  • Traction / methods
  • Traction / statistics & numerical data*
  • United Kingdom