Is IDD Therapy Traction? An Analysis


Chronic back pain is a significant public health concern, affecting an estimated 80% of the population at some point. With advancements in medicine, a novel treatment approach, Intervertebral Differential Dynamics (IDD) Therapy, has emerged as a non-surgical, targeted solution. However, there’s been a debate about its origins, with many comparing it to traditional traction therapy. The central question is, is IDD Therapy merely a rebranded form of traction?


Traction therapy has been employed since the time of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, in the 5th century. The process involves a broad stretching of the entire spine, aimed at relieving pain. However, it has fallen out of favour due to several shortcomings. The therapy was often performed blindly without proper diagnostics like MRIs, and its inability to target specific spinal segments made it unsuitable for treating specific conditions. Its mechanisms were rudimentary, without the capacity for consistent oscillation, making it potentially painful or aggravating for some patients.

In contrast, IDD Therapy, developed in the late 1990s in North America, is a more targeted, refined version of spinal decompression. It utilises the SDS Spina machine and computer-controlled forces to pinpoint and mobilise specific damaged spinal segments. This precise targeting allows for the restoration of hydration and nutrients within the spinal disc, fostering a conducive environment for the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

IDD Therapy evolved from the insights of neurosurgeon Norman Shealy, who saw potential in the basic principles of traction therapy but recognised its failings. By applying vector forces and adjusting the angle of distraction forces, Shealy could specifically target and open up spinal segments, thereby promoting healing and reducing disc pressure.


While both traditional traction therapy and IDD Therapy are rooted in the principle of spinal decompression, it is crucial to distinguish between the two in terms of their mechanisms, specificity, and effectiveness.

Traditional traction therapy indiscriminately pulls the entire spine, often exacerbating disc pressure in some cases. It was performed without the aid of modern diagnostic tools like MRIs, making it impossible to accurately target the affected spinal segments. Furthermore, traction therapy lacked the ability to deliver consistent oscillation, sometimes resulting in more harm than good for patients.

IDD Therapy, on the other hand, employs a far more targeted and sophisticated approach. It uses advanced technology, the SDS Spina machine, in conjunction with computer-controlled forces to specifically target and decompress damaged spinal segments. This specificity provides a more effective treatment, reducing disc pressure in the targeted areas, promoting disc hydration and nutrient restoration, and enabling the body’s natural healing process.

Moreover, unlike the linear, potentially uncomfortable pulling movement in traditional traction, IDD Therapy uses cyclical pulling forces. This approach allows for consistent oscillation and helps patients to adapt to the forces while remaining relaxed and pain-free, enhancing the therapy’s effectiveness and comfort.

Therefore, while the foundation of decompressing the spine in both treatments is similar, the methods, accuracy, and outcomes significantly differ. IDD Therapy isn’t merely a rebranded version of traction. Instead, it represents a considerable evolution, leveraging advancements in technology and medical understanding to deliver a more targeted, effective, and comfortable treatment for chronic back and neck pain. It takes the fundamental idea of spinal decompression from traction therapy but revolutionises it to meet the modern understanding of patient comfort and targeted treatment. As such, labelling IDD Therapy as mere traction oversimplifies its technological sophistication, precision, and proven efficacy.


Steve Morris is a highly experienced Osteopath with over three decades of hands-on experience. As one of the pioneering figures to introduce IDD Therapy in the UK back in 2010, Steve has not only established himself as a leading authority in the non-surgical treatment of disc conditions, but he’s also recognised as one of the country’s foremost experts in mechanical decompression through IDD Therapy.

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