Cervical Traction for Managing Neck Pain: A Survey of Physical Therapists in the United States


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Abstract

STUDY DESIGN:Cross-sectional survey.OBJECTIVE:To examine the use of traction by physical therapists for patients with neck pain, including how and when traction is used, the delivery modes and parameters, supplemental interventions, and influence of professional demographics on usage.BACKGROUND:Systematic reviews provide little support for traction in managing neck pain. While traction usage among physical therapists in other countries has been described, usage in the United States has not been examined.METHODS:A random sample of 4000 Orthopaedic Section members of the American Physical Therapy Association were surveyed. Associations among respondents' professional demographics and survey responses were explored with chisquare analyses (α = .05).RESULTS:The response rate was 25.5% (n = 1001); 76.6% (n = 767) of respondents reported using traction, and 93.1% reported that they would use traction for a patient presenting with signs of nerve root compression. Common delivery modes included manual methods (92.3%) and mechanical traction tables (88.3%). Using traction is often supplemented with other interventions (exercise, postural education, joint mobilization). A higher proportion of physical therapists with American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties orthopaedic certification reported using traction (88.6%) than did those without specialty certification (73.0%).CONCLUSION:Most respondents reported that their use of cervical traction was consistent with proposed criteria that identify patients who are likely to benefit. They use various traction delivery modes/parameters within comprehensive plans of care incorporating multiple interventions. Professional demographics (clinical specialist credentialing) were associated with traction usage.

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