This is a non-surgical approach to treating disc injuries. It is use to relieve back pain and back pain with accompanying leg pain (commonly called sciatica). The treatment employs the use of a specialized table that enables the chiropractor to gently distract or stretch the spine. The technique allows the chiropractor to isolate the injured area and treat it painlessly.
The spine is tractioned (or distracted) by the table. A gentle pumping action allows the central, soft area of the disc (called the nucleus pulposus) to move away from the nerve, reducing irritation. This technique is thought to increase the height of the disc.
Flexion distraction technique compares favorably to other treatments for low back pain and accompanying radiculopathy (another term for pain down the leg, or sciatica). A study published in a recent issue of the European Spine Journal (published online Dec. 8, 2005) revealed that flexion-distraction provides significantly greater pain relief and overall patient satisfaction compared to the exercise program. This, according to the visual analog scale (i.e. rating pain levels from 1 to 10, also called the VAS). In patients who received flexion-distraction, VAS scores changed an average of a little over 22% compared to only about 15% for exercise patients.
In general, patients with chronic, recurring low back pain did better with exercise and patients with acute pain with radiculopathy did better with the flexion and distraction treatments. Of course this was a scientific study designed to compare treatments. In the real world, you can combine treatments, and even do stabilizing exercises along with flexion and distraction treatment.