Helpful Information




Treating back and neck pain with spinal traction is a practice that's been around for many years. As with many medical treatments, this method has evolved with technology, but the rationale and the effects remain the same.

The goal of spinal traction is to pull the vertebrae apart from each other. The purpose is generally to create more space for nerves where they exit the spinal column or to relieve pressure on the cartilage disks between the bones or on the small spinal joints themselves. At lower intensities, it can also be used to stretch small spinal muscles. The unproven theory is that if the disks are pulled, they will regain hydration or have an influx of water. This would then make them more shock absorbent. What we do know is how much force of pull is needed to get certain areas of the spine to separate between segments. In the cervical spine (neck) it takes about 20-30 pounds of pull to achieve separation. This is a relatively narrow range because the size and weight of the head does not vary greatly. For lumbar traction the amount of pull needed to begin separation of the vertebrae is half the body weight. This means if you weigh 180 pounds, it will take 90 pounds of pull to begin getting separation of the spinal joints and bones.

Is traction effective? The research is a little mixed. For short-term symptom relief, traction seems to be appropriate for some joint-related back and neck pain, but no better than other means of treatment like stretching or joint manipulation. For pain from a disk- or arthritis-related pinched nerve, traction can be effective for some. For patients with arm pain from a pinched nerve in their neck, there are some limitations.  The research indicates that if you have had the pain for less than 60 days, and it has been confirmed with an MRI, the problem can be traced to a disk and you might benefit more from intermittent traction. This means that the pull, at least 20 pounds of force, is on for no more than 1 minute, then off, then on again.

This brings us to how traction is done. Traditionally it is classified as either manual or mechanical. Manual traction is performed by another individual, usually your medical or rehabilitation provider. Mechanical traction comes in a wide variety of strategies and devices. We will first discuss the difference between sustained and intermittent traction. Intermittent traction is traction where the force of pull is used on and off. This can be done either manually or mechanically. Sustained traction is when the force of pull is held for an extended period of time, usually no more than 30 minutes. While this can be done manually, it is usually done mechanically since the force of pull can be held steady for a longer duration of time.

Lumbar traction is usually administered using a large device in a clinic. However, two similar home methods are moderately popular. One is a pneumatic version that works much the same way as the cervical version and can be done anywhere. The other is the inversion table. With this machine, you strap yourself into the leg clasps then flip over and hang upside down. One of the dangers of this is that hanging upside down often causes headaches and may cause alterations in blood pressure. It often takes several sessions to get used to using this apparatus. Clinically, lumbar traction is performed with different types of machines that range from manual control to computer controlled. Some even incorporate heat sources, electrical stimulation and music or DVD players. Regardless of the bells and whistles, the premise is the same: Pull the top half and the bottom half of the body away from each other. All systems rely on the ability to get a good hold on the body segments in order to pull with enough force (at least half the body weight) to make a difference. As with cervical traction, lumbar traction can be done in either sustained or intermittent modes. At Pleasant Hill Chiropractic we use the DTS Spinal Traction Table that can be used for neck, lower back and Carpal Tunnel wrist pain. Dr. Piva will determine if DTS is appropriate for your condition following a comprehensive examination. Usually treatment can begin on the same day. Along with DTS other therapy may be used including but not limited to Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS), Ultra-Sound, Cold Laser, Heat Therapy and Acupuncture.

There is no clear-cut evidence that spinal traction should be the primary treatment for any particular patient or for any certain symptoms. But cervical and upper extremity symptoms seem to show the most promise in being positively affected by intermittent traction. Traction may be an appropriate tool in the treatment of your neck or back pain or even nerve pain in the arms or legs. This should not be relied upon as your primary or sole treatment. When done in conjunction with stabilization exercises, joint manipulations, postural corrections and movement corrections, your chances of seeing improvement are much greater.

At Pleasant Hill Chiropractic, Dr. Piva believes Spinal Traction can be an effective and important part of your spinal health. Prevention is key. Ask us how an affordable program of 12 Traction treatments can be designed for you at 1 time per month. For Patients who are in unfortunate acute pain we will make sure we are the most affordable Spinal Traction Treatment Program in the area. As with all treatment programs at Pleasant Hill Chiropractic, “Empowerment to get better and stay at your best is the cornerstone of everything we do”.



Your mind is a powerful tool that can affect your health both physically and mentally. How you cope with stress can have far- reaching effects with your longevity. Stress is medically defined as an organism's total response to environmental demands or pressures. When stress was first studied in the 1950s, the term was used to denote both the causes and the experienced effects of these pressures. More recently, however, the word stressor has been used for the stimulus that provokes a stress response. One recurrent disagreement among researchers concerns the definition of stress in humans. Is it primarily an external response that can be measured by changes in glandular secretions, skin reactions, and other physical functions, or is it an internal interpretation of, or reaction to, a stressor; or is it both? Stress in humans results from interactions between persons and their environment that are perceived as straining or exceeding their adaptive capacities and threatening their well-being. The element of perception indicates that human stress responses reflect differences in personality, as well as differences in physical strength or general health. The causes of stress can include any event or occurrence that a person considers a threat to his or her coping strategies or resources.

Researchers generally agree that a certain degree of stress is a normal part of a living organism's response to the inevitable changes in its physical or social environment, and that positive, as well as negative, events can generate stress as well as negative occurrences. Stress-related disease, however, results from excessive and prolonged demands on an organism's coping resources. It is now believed that 80-90% of all disease is stress-related. The symptoms of stress can be either physical or psychological. Stress-related physical illnesses, such as irritable bowel syndrome, heart attacks, arthritis, hyperglycemia and chronic headaches, result from long-term overstimulation of a part of the nervous system that regulates the heart rate, blood pressure, and digestive system. Stress-related emotional illness results from inadequate or inappropriate responses to major changes in one's life situation, such as marriage, completing one's education, becoming a parent, losing a job, or retirement. Psychiatrists sometimes use the term adjustment disorder to describe this type of illness.

In an ideal world picture yourself doing an intense activity you love. As an example lets use hunting. You're outside with your son or daughter, the air is crisp, the leaves damp, sitting quietly in your blind and you see the buck of your dreams. You steady your riffle, your site is on, finger on the trigger---arterial pressure is rising 30-40 percent temporarily, there is an increase body temperature, increased release of amino acids from mainly your skeletal muscle, slight increase in hepatic gluconeogenesis resulting in hyperglycemia (rise in blood sugar) and rise in cortisol and adrenalin—Bang! You got it! (If you are against hunting substitute your car for the gun—the physiology will basically remain the same.

Now imagine feeling this way, this mixture of excitement, anxiety, and heaviness all the time. This chronic feeling is not good, and will eventually take its tole and lead to diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, fibromyalgia and depression which can lead to further problems such as high cholesterol, stroke, heart attack, premature aging and early death.

Over the last eight to ten years I have done thousands of acupuncture treatments for stress and have formulated a specific set of acupuncture points that have been successful in helping my patients feel better and reduce their feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. If you are feeling stressed and are dealing with the physical and/or emotional consequences of stress, as mentioned above, please try acupuncture. I want to help you form a “Stress Fighting Lifestyle” and will do everything I can to get you there. Along with acupuncture, exercise and diet do play a significant role in reducing stress and the harmful effects it can have on your physical and emotional health. I have spoken with Daniel Standley of Revolution Martial Arts in Pleasant Hill and he is willing to offer a special on his Kick Boxing Exercise class to help you on your way to better health. The benefits of reduced stress are being happier, lower blood pressure, possibly lowered blood sugar levels (important for diabetics) and with some additional discussions on nutrition you can experience healthy weight-loss.

I Believe stress is the catalyst to so many other diseases and it is so important to reduce and learn how to cope with its effect that I am going to reduce and acupuncture treatment for stress reduction to $20/treatment until February 18, 2011. This is good for new and present patients of Pleasant Hill Chiropractic. It may be the best 40-60 minutes you have spent on yourself in a while. You have nothing to lose, but your feelings of stress!




Though each patient is different and no doctor can guarantee success, the clinical results of this type of therapy have been effective in over 75% of patients treated. The common cause of many back conditions includes damaged discs and poor spinal muscle control. Our treatment program addresses both of these core problems. Distraction therapy creates a controlled unloading of the vertebra to decrease disc pressure thus increasing blood and nutrient exchange. This exchange of fluids is something the damaged disc desperately needs to help it heal from the inside out. Muscle strength, control and endurance can all be improved with other facets of Distraction Therapy that include specific controlled exercises.

How long will my treatment program be?

It depends on the complexity and extent of the rehabilitation needed, however we typically treat 3 times a week for 1 month, transitioning from passive to active treatments as you respond. The treatment is administered over a reasonable time frame and your response is continually evaluated. Further treatments may be necessary or a reduced frequency may be recommended at this time. The rehabilitative phase may include additional Distraction Therapy treatments, with spinal adjustments to enhance the results. Most patients are released from treatments after 8 weeks.


The fall season brings to my office more athletes, hunters and those who work outside complaining of muscular aches, pains, strains and sprains. Why do our muscles ache, spasm, strain and tear? The primary reason in my opinion is a lack of proper conditioning and flexibility. If your muscles are overloaded and pushed to their perceived limit they will spasm to protect them from tearing. This is an oversimplification but a sound one. If your muscles are well hydrated, flexible and balanced they well be better able to carry out all the contracting when running, jumping, quick starting and stopping and even relaxing that they must do every day. The purpose of this article is to explain what you can do to prevent tears, spasms, and strains and if you are past prevention and into an injury I will explain what I can do to help you.

For the athlete and/or anyone engaged in a job that requires strong muscular exertions you need to make a habit out of heating/warming up then stretching your muscles every day.. If you brush your teeth twice/day make the time to spend 10 minutes twice a day warming up your muscles and doing a full body stretching regiment. Compliment your stretching by exercising your muscles with resistance in a controlled manner (weight training) so that when you are forced to contract your muscles in uncontrolled situations such as quick starts and stops in sports such as football and basketball or maintaining your balance or lifting drywall at a work site, your muscles have the conditioning not to spasm and the flexibility not to tear.

The following is brief outline of what my prevention recommendations entail.

1. Warm your muscles. It would be preferable to use exercise as the warm-up ( walking, treadmill, bike for 10 min and or a few light sets with resistance with respect to the muscle group you intend to exert. If exercise is not an option use moist heat on the muscles you expect to exert.

2. Stretch the muscle and hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds rest and repeat. Each muscle should be stretched at least three times. Remember not to bounce the stretch. Proper technique is important. If you need specific stretches please feel free to come by the office and we well provide you with examples of stretches.

3. Use resistance to train your muscle to be able to withstand exertions. In my experience most muscular strains and tears and spasms occur when the muscle must decelerate ( slow down to a stop before being exerted aging). Deceleration cause the muscle fibers to contract more than when they accelerate. Two ways to train the deceleration fibers of the muscle is eccentric training (pushing/contracting the muscle against an immovable object) and two incorporating “negatives” into your resistance programs. Negatives is fighting the relaxation phase of the muscle contraction ( i.e.; if you were to do a leg extension, the positive part of the movement is upward movement and the negative part is the downward movement, 2 seconds for the positive and 5 seconds to resist the negative). I would recommend that you do some type of eccentric and negative workout for each muscle group at least once a month.

4. Diet. Drink plenty of water to keep your muscles well hydrated. Consume foods rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium.


The following can help improve your performance and reduce your risks for injury. As different sports place different demands on your body it is important for you to ask questions and tailor your nutrition, stretching and workouts to your specific sport.


Nutrition is probably the most important aspect in your athletic performance. The old adage "You are what you eat", is true. Without proper nutrition muscles can cramp, endurance suffers and the body will slowly break down. The key is prevention - - eating properly and maintaining hydration. Within our diets we need the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, protein, fat and carbohydrates that are obtained by food. For those that are not competitive athletes I recommend a high fiber moderate protein diet comprising of vegetables, fruit, grains, and lean sources of protein. However, for athletes, especially endurance athletes I recommend carbohydrate loading before high intensity activity and a quick high glycemic food source within 20 minutes of a high intensity activity, especially under tournament conditions.

Muscles usually store small amounts of glycogen, (energy source within a muscle to help with continuous contractions and relaxations) which is not a problem but when you start exercising at high intensity, such as running or swimming and this is continued for 60 to 90 minutes, your muscles run out of glycogen. As a result, stamina and performance diminish.

What To Do? - - Carbohydrate Loading


● Taper the amount of exercise before a high endurance activity
● Eat significantly more carbohydrates leading up to the activity and practices
● Choose high glycemic foods, e.g., grains, potatoes, rice, fruits
● No refined sugars or refined flour foods – they burn up quickly

THE 20 MINUTE WINDOW – Eating within the 20 – minute window following intense activity will quickly replace glycogen stores and prepare you for another game in a few hours or the next day. Choices could be a bagel with honey and peanut butter or a granola bar. This will help prevent that dragging feeling.


Drinking water is key. I suggest 40-60 oz/day at the minimum for the average person. For the competitive athlete who is constantly perspiring, fluid must be replaced continuously. I suggest room temperature water during competition as this helps to prevent cramping. I do believe sports drinks during high intensity sports events, especially in high temperatures, are fine as they contain water and electrolytes which are lost during these sporting events.