4 Ways to Do Neck Traction at Home (& Best Neck Stretchers)
Neck traction, also known as cervical traction, is an amazing drug-free method to relieve neck pain for anyone suffering from neck arthritis, herniated/bulging disc in the neck, neck strains and cervical muscle spasms.
You can do home neck traction (neck decompression) just as effectively and safely – as long as you learn how to do it and which device is best for you.
This guide will show exactly how to do home cervical stretching safely – without spending a fortune, and the most effective neck stretchers in 2019.
The 4 Best Ways to Do Neck Traction at Home
You can basically choose from 4 types of neck traction home units. They can get you about the same results but they are very different.
If you’re in a hurry, here are our top recommended neck traction devices for 2019:
And here’s a detailed explanation about each device:
1. Air Neck Traction Devices
Air neck traction devices (inflatable cervical collar) are basically inflated neck braces. You secure them around your neck (great for neck posture as well) and use the pump to inflate them.
As the pillow gets filled with air, it straightens takes the weight off your neck and pushes down your shoulders.
You use the pump to gradually raise the level of air to a comfortable stretch. Your muscles relax and your discs are aligned and ready for re-hydration. You are also taking the pressure off your nerves and blood vessels of course.
Air Neck Traction Pros
- Air neck traction devices are easy to use, require no assembly and are completely portable. You can easily take them anywhere and use them at the office or while traveling. You can use them while sitting or lying down, however you’d like.
- They are portable units.
- Not all air neck traction devices are made of high-quality materials. One unit I had started leaking after I’ve used it for only 6 times, so you really have to know which one is the best (see below).
- Another disadvantage is that they can apply a bit too much pressure on your TMJ since the pillow inflates around the jaw as well.
✅ The Best Air Neck Traction Device
Since I want to prevent you from wasting your money, here is the highest quality air neck traction device (through my research)
2. Over the Door Neck Traction
Over-the-door neck traction devices require, as hinted in the name, a door. They require some assembly because you have to place them over the back of a door.
The over-the-door traction device requires for you to place straps around the back of your head and your chin (see the picture above).
You tighten the strap to stretch your neck by using either a water bag (not recommended) or by pulling down a cord (like in the Neckpro device).
Over the Door Neck Traction Pros
- An over-the-door device if fairly easy to use once you’ve placed correctly and made sure the door is solid. You can then sit comfortably on a chair and read something while traction works its magic.
- Over-the-door devices are less portable than air neck devices. You’ll need a solid door and a chair to use it and you can’t lie down and relax.
- It can take some time to find the right stretch and your chin may take the brunt of the traction force.
- But, it still gives you the same benefits and if you use it correctly it can bring you much neck pain relief.
👉 I would not recommend using the water bag units, because they are harder to control.
✅ The BEST Over the Door Traction Device
Our highest recommendation goes to:
3. Posture Pumps
Posture pumps are usually a bit pricier than the above two, but they are worth every cent in my humble opinion.
Posture pump units are well-built and are heavy-duty pieces of quality durable medical equipment.
- Posture pumps are larger, provide stronger traction and are made with durable material. They are light and portable and come in a handy carrying case.
- They require no assembly and have a softer, more comfortable head pad and straps.
You simply lie down, adjust the little knob/posts that secure the base of your skull and place the strap on your forehead. Then you just pump up the pressure and tighten.
Posture Pump Pros
- Posture pumps are usually sturdier, made with more durable materials and work with no problems for years.
- They don’t use pillows that can leak air and they don’t need a door to support them.
- They all have a handy carrying bag that protects them if you want to take them with you anywhere.
- They don’t put pressure on your jaw or anywhere other than where it should be.
- Portable and fit for travel
- These units are less portable than the air neck traction devices, and they take up a bit more room. You can only use them lying down.
- The price is higher, but in my opinion – well worth it. Especially if you consider the money you are saving on dozens of chiropractor treatments.
If you’re not sure about posture pumps, consider using an inversion table. See our full comparison between the posture pump and the inversion table, to decide what’s best for your needs.
✅ The BEST Posture Pump
Here are our two most recommended posture pumps for 2019:
👉 See my detailed review for the Comfortrac Cervical Traction
👉 See our full review for the Saunders HERE.
We also recommend…The Cervical Posture Pump
4. The Neck Hammock (Neck Traction Sling)
Neck Hammocks are gaining popularity in recent years, probably because it’s really simple to use, it works, and is relatively low cost.
The neck hammock creates neck traction by pulling your head away from your shoulders. This makes your neck muscles relax and relieves the pressure off them effectively.
It also slightly expands the space around your neck vertebrae, which allows for more blood flow (and oxygen!) to the area – bringing pain-relieving and healing components – faster and better.
Through our research, this simple neck traction device works well for cervical pinched nerves.
DIY Neck Hammock
A lot of people have asked us whether it’s possible to make your own neck hammock.
The answer is yes. All you’ll need is a good towel and a rope.
But we want to warn you: You have to do this the right way, since any “malfunction” may cause you to bang your head on the floor. We recommend buying a professional neck hammock and to not take a chance.
- Fold your towel three times to narrow the length and width and to create a base for your head.
- Create two holes on each side of the towel to create a loop, and slide the rope between the two holes.
- Your neck hammock is ready. Now you need to find a sturdy base to tie the rope to, like a doorknob.
- Once you’re done, just rest your head on the hammock.
Here’s a video with a good demonstration:
What is Cervical Traction and How Does it Work?
In traction, the goal is to provide the opportunity for your neck muscles and pinched nerves to be released.
Tension is placed on the head to pull it up and away from the neck, stretching the muscles and ligaments around the vertebrae of the spine and expanding the space between the vertebrae.
For many people, neck traction equipment provides fast neck pain relief – without medication – and faster recovery from neck injuries, including:
- Cervical herniated and bulging disc
- Pinched nerve
- Neck stiffness
- Neck muscle pain
- Degenerative disc disease
- Cervical spine arthritis
Now everything is in place and the awful pain and stiffness can be dramatically reduced. And all of this is done without medication and unnecessary surgeries.
📢 Are these claims backed by science?
This 2017 meta-analysis of studies found that mechanical cervical traction significantly reduced neck pain – immediately after treatment and in the follow-up period.
Cervical Traction Risks
Generally, it’s safe to perform cervical traction, but remember that results are different for everyone. The treatment should be totally pain-free.
If you’ve already had neck surgery, it’s not recommended to do neck traction at home.
Do not overdo traction, because it can cause more harm than good and overstretch your neck.
We recommend to follow instructions carefully and ask your doctor for treatment time and frequency per day.
Possible side effects of neck traction are: a headache, dizziness, and nausea. If you feel any of these, stop treatment immediately.
Consult with your doctor before you start treatment if you have:
- Recent injury in the neck area
- A bone infection
- A known cervical tumor
- Osteoporosis/rheumatoid arthritis
- Cervical instability
- Spinal hypermobility
Neck Traction at NIGHT
If your neck pain is mostly caused by your sleeping position and comes usually at night or in the morning, a neck traction pillow can be your lifesaver.
👉 See our post about how to choose the best neck traction pillow.
What do you think about neck traction? have you ever tried it to relieve neck pain? Share your experience (or ask any question) – in the comments below.
To your health and happiness,
The Back Pain Relief Products Team
Intermittent Cervical Traction for Treating Neck Pain: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials, SPINE. 42(13):959–965, JULY 1ST, 2017, doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000001948
International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training, v. 22, issue 5, p. 4-11