Home Lumbar Traction Units
Before considering specific lumbar traction devices, it may be useful to review the general rationale for spinal traction and the conditions that these units are most likely to help.
When traction forces are applied to the spine there is usually some drop in pressure within the spinal discs - the fibrocartilage spacers between each of the spinal bones (vertebrae). This can help reduce disc bulges and herniations as well as relieve pressure on other spinal joint structures and help with associated neck and upper back pain due to cervical disc/joint problems or lower back pain due to lumbar disc/joint problems. In some cases this can also reduce pressure on the nerves that travel between each of these vertebrae and help decrease associated symptoms such as pain, numbness or tingling that radiates into one or both arms due to cervical disc/joint problems or down one or both legs due to lumbar disc/joint problems.
People with spinal disc degeneration ("degenerative disc disease") may also benefit from a traction based treatment as this may be helpful in improving the flow of nutrients to the discs. Some providers feel that this may slow down the course of degeneration over time. For this reason, there may be some preventive value to this application also.
Although spinal traction devices may be of significant benefit to some people, it is important not to "self diagnose" as individual requirements vary and what may be a great management option for one condition may be a bad choice for another. Assuming you have had appropriate testing by a qualified provider and any necessary professional treatment for your particular condition, you have discussed how appropriate a home traction unit would be in your particular case and in was determined that you are a good candidate for such a device, I hope you find my review of the following products helpful.
In my opinion, this unit is the one that most closely replicates the axial traction provided by units typically found in professional settings and the one I would recommend to someone looking for a home unit to help with conditions such as herniated discs, degenerative discs, stenosis and certain types of mechanical low back pain. This unit provides the preferred type of traction (axial) that is usually most effective for the majority of conditions for which it would be used. The treatment is rendered in the horizontal position which avoids the increased pressure to blood vessels in the head when in the inverted position as well as allowing postural muscles to better relax during the treatment. It also allows full control of traction intensity. Of course, you should discuss your specific requirements with your health care provider but as far as lumbar traction home units go I believe this is by far the best choice for most people.
As far as inversion tables, I believe this to be one of the best units for the price - almost as good or just as good as some similar units that are much more expensive. These units may be helpful for certain types of lumbar disc problems as well as relieving pressure on spinal joints. I do not advise people with acute disc herniations to use these units as I do not feel there is enough control of the forces going through the spine in this phase of a disc problem and I would be concerned about making the condition worse. I believe these would be more useful after receiving professional care for the acute phase (talk to your provider to see if they may be appropriate for you) to help maintain disc health over time or in helping provide some relief of chronic back pain. However, not every person is a good candidate for an inversion table. I would not advise the use of inversion tables for those with high blood pressure, certain eye problems, people on blood thinning medication or anyone at an increased risk of stroke for other reasons - in my opinion, even if the spine may benefit, the increased pressure in the head with being inverted is not worth the increased stroke risk in these cases. If in doubt, talk to your health care professional about how appropriate this product may be in your particular case.
It is difficult to find a home unit that will perform as well as the very expensive traction/decompression machines you will find at some chiropractic or physical therapy offices, esp. in the case of lumbar units. However, this particular unit does have some attractive features that make it worth considering - it avoids the contraindication that some individuals have to hanging upside down, as noted in the inversion table comments above, and it allows "axial traction" which may have some advantages with certain type of lumbar disc and joint problems. Most of the reviews on this unit are very positive but this category of units rarely has unanimous support as each person's requirements are so different. If I were to personally pick a home unit, based on the features and the price, this is one I would consider.
Although this product doesn't provide true "axial traction" it can be helpful for some patients by providing some degree of decreased disc pressure by virtue of the position that it puts the spine in. Problems such as bulging or herniated discs and disc degeneration are most likely to be helped. I would not recommend this product for lumbar stenosis as extending the spine backwards may cause more pinching of nerves that exit from openings in the spine that are already compromised.