Spine decompression techniques


Spinal decompression is a kind of technique, which involves stretching the spine, to increase the space between the vertebrae. It has been used for decades to reduce symptoms of spinal compression. 

Spine decompression is achieved by performing mechanical, or manual, traction on the spine. The traction separates the vertebrae, which  in turn reduces pressure on the discs – the soft tissue that separates the bones.

The traction also stretches, or mechanically relaxes, other soft tissue, such as ligaments and tense muscles. If sustained traction is applied, the stretch can reduce muscle spasm and increase the blood supply to the soft tissues and intervertebral discs.

There’s equipment designed to help you stretch your spine, but there are also simpler, equipment-free techniques that can achieve it. In this blog post, we will cover six ways to achieve spine decompression.

Child hanging from bar with doctor. Year 1909.

1 . Gravity

Gravity can help accomplish  spine decompression by generating a force that produces the traction  needed to decompress the spine. There are many ways of using gravity for this purpose some of them only require our body weight, others involve the use of special devices.

The simplest way to stretch the spine is to hang from a bar, relaxing the back muscles.

As our hands and arms are not usually strong enough to suspend our body weight from a bar for long periods, there is another way to achieve spine decompression by gravity: inversion tables. These are devices designed to suspend  a person upside down. The theory is that by holding a person by their feet, gravity shifts and  generates decompression


Commercial inversion table

2. Manual Force

Manual force is a very convenient way to achieve spine decompression, as the person performing the traction can adjust the force and communicate with the person being decompressed to control the motion. There are many ways to use manual force for spinal decompression. Here are three manual techniques to achieve spine decompression:


Bare hands are the most basic way to apply spine traction. Here’s how it works. The person performing the decompression supports the back of the head, known as the occiput, and the chin. They then use manual force to stretch the neck and spine.

Towel or Band

A towel or band are very simple tools that can be used to stretch the spine. This method of spine traction can help stabilize the stretching motion and generally requires less arm and hand strength. It’s achieved by placing a towel under the head of the person being decompressed, just above the neck, and pulling on it to generate traction.


The Y-strap is a spine traction tool used to stretch the spine from top to bottom. It applies manual traction by stabilizing and firmly holding the head, while facilitating cervical and spinal stretch. To know more about the Y-Strap click here.

3 . Powered, elastic and pneumatic.

There is a wide variety of devices that are designed to decompress the spine and stretch the back. These use different types of energy, such as electric motors, compressed air or elastic bands, to generate the stretching force.

Pneumatic devices are available at a low cost. They stretch the upper part of the spine – the cervical region. These decompress the spine using a small air pump to fill a multi-cushion structure, worn around the neck.

Other, more sophisticated, powered devices  can move and stretch specific regions of the spine, achieving a more targeted decompression.

Pneumatic, pump action neck stretching device