Spinal Arthritis

Spinal Arthritis

Treating Spinal Arthritis with Cox Flexion-Distraction Therapy


Arthritis is a common joint condition affecting more than 1 in 10 adults. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease associated with a breakdown in joint cartilage. Osteoarthritis leads to pain, stiffness, and a loss of normal joint movement. The spine – particularly the neck and lower back — are commonly affected by this condition.

Fortunately, the majority of people with spinal arthritis can be effectively treated with Cox Flexion-Distraction Treatment. For anyone who is not familiar with this type of treatment, Cox Flexion-Distraction is a safe, comfortable, non-invasive treatment approach for spinal conditions….including spine pain related to arthritis. In this article we will briefly review the causes of spinal arthritis, then discuss why Cox Flexion-Distraction is so effective in treating this common problem.


Cox Flexion-Distraction Technique has emerged as one of the most effective, safest, and well researched therapies for treating spinal conditions, including Spinal Arthritis, and can often provide dramatic relief when there are few other effective treatment options available.

What Causes Arthritis

Spinal arthritis, specifically osteoarthritis, is basically a ‘wear-and-tear’ condition that is caused by excessive or abnormal stress to the joints of the spine over a long period of time. This abnormal stress will lead to formation of new bone in the areas of stress.  This new bone formation is commonly referred to as bone spurs, or osteophytes (this new bone growth is the body’s attempt to strengthen and stabilize the bone in the over-stressed area). These osteophytes can be seen on x-rays, and are a definite sign of abnormal stress and loading to the affected area. This abnormal stress and joint degeneration/osteophyte formation can lead to pain, stiffness, and inflammation in and around the joints of the spine.

In more advanced cases these osteophytes can pinch or compress the spinal cord or spinal nerves as they exit the neck or lower back. This can be a much more serious condition leading to neurologic compromise and cause symptoms to radiate into the arms or legs. (This condition is referred to as cervical spine stenosis or lumbar spinal stenosis, depending on if he back or neck is affected). Due to the potentially serious nature of spinal stenosis proper treatment of spinal arthritis is important not only to manage and improve the current symptoms, but also to help prevent progression of the condition.

Traditional Treatment Options for Spinal Arthritis

Treatment for spinal arthritis must focus on improving and maintain proper health and mobility of the arthritic and degenerated joints (this is critical not just to manage the current pain and tightness, but also to prevent the condition from progressing and creating bigger problems down the road).

In an attempt to treat spinal arthritis, a variety of treatment methods are commonly used, including medications, massage, stretching or strengthening exercises, or chiropractic/joint manipulation techniques. While in many cases these approaches can be helpful in managing symptoms of pain and stiffness, many of these therapies are limited in their effectiveness and/or provide only temporary relief.

Medications generally address the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis, but do not address the actual tightness or abnormal motion of the spinal joints. Stretching exercises can be helpful, and are usually an important part of home based supportive care and management; however, the effectiveness of stretching can be limited because it is impossible to focus the stretch at the specific joints of the spinal column that are arthritic. In fact, stretches often force the healthy and unaffected joints to move more than normal to in an attempt to compensate for the arthritic/degenerated joint. This can actually be damaging to the healthy joints and has the potential to create more problems than it solves.

Traditional chiropractic adjustments/joint manipulation procedures to loosen tight and restricted joints can also be helpful in some cases, but can often be uncomfortable, or patients may be nervous to receive such treatment. Furthermore, research has shown that it is difficult to focus the effects at specific joints with this type of treatment (1,2), which leads to the same problems associated with stretching.

Related Videos: See How Cox Flexion Distraction Works


Our Approach: Cox Flexion-Distraction Therapy

Cox Flexion-Distraction therapy is a gentle, comfortable, hands-on, treatment for spinal pain and dysfunction. In recent decades Cox Therapy has emerged as one of the most effective, safest, and well researched treatments for spinal conditions, including spinal arthritis.

Here is how Cox Technique works….

Cox Treatment is performed using a specially engineered treatment table that gently pulls and stretches the joints of the spine. With the patient lying face down on the table, either the headpiece or the lower portion of the table supporting the legs of the table can be slowly pulled down and away. (Which part of the table that moves is dependent upon which part of the spine is being treated). This motion gently stretches the joints of the spine, which pulls the spinal bones away from each other and acts to “decompress” the joint and gently stretch the muscles and ligaments around the degenerated joint. Side-to-side and rotational motions can also be performed in a similar manner.

As the spine stretches the doctor is able to focus the release pressure at very specific levels of the spine by applying a specific pressure to the arthritic/degenerated area with a specialized hand contact. The ability to direct the distraction effect to the exact level of joint restriction makes Cox Flexion-Distraction treatment more effective than traditional stretching exercises and other distraction therapies or devices which apply only a general stretch or traction. In our experience this is also more effective and comfortable than traditional joint manipulation techniques. Each decompression stretch is held for 5 seconds and is applied in a rhythmical push-pull action five or six times. This process is usually repeated three to four times. In our experience the majority of people with pain and stiffness related to spinal arthritis respond very well to this approach.



Get Relief with Cox Technique

To book an appointment to see if Cox Flexion-Distraction will be able to help with your arthritis simply call our office, or book an initial appointment using our online scheduling system.



1) Ross JK, Bereznick DE, McGill SM. Determining cavitation location during lumbar and thoracic spinal manipulation: is spinal manipulation accurate and specific? Spine 2004; 29:1452-1457.

2) Perle SM, Kawchuck GN, Parrault T, Adams W. Radiographically determined anatomical location of point of peak pressure during pisiform and hypothenar contact manipulation procedures. Proceedings of the International Conference on Spinal Manipulation Oct 5-6. Toronto: Foundation for chiropractic Education and Research; 2002. p20.


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Posted on

May 27, 2014