Neck Decompression Traction Device - Homemade and Portable

Many years ago, my Rehab Doctor said I had Cervical Spondylosis. Nothing was prescribed, not even physical therapy. It was something that my x-ray resuts showed. The rehab doctor suggested the x-ray after a series of physical therapy I had for my shoulder.

Aside from the occasional creaking sound in my neck and some discomfort, there is no real neck or back pain unlike what I read from others in facebook discussion groups for Cervical Spondylosis. The discomfort, however, necessitated some nightly massages on my back from the wife.

Neck Decompression Device for Cervical Spondylosis

I looked for ways on how I could alleviate the slight back pain which occurs mid to high back. I looked at youtube videos for exercises for the neck and found some that are just a bit successful.

Something that caught my attention though are traction devices that are used to stretch the spine especially at the neck region. A few suggest towels, bands and other fixtures that attach to doors.

This gave me an idea for a stretching mechanism for the spine using the back of a chair. And so this idea for a portable Neck Decompression Traction Device came about. Nowadays, I no longer require the nightly neck and back massages from my wife just to alleviate neck pains and back pains.

I'm able to sleep more soundly too.

DIY Neck Decompression Traction Device

(Note: There is a video tutorial at the end of this article)


  • Old Water Bottle with a Concave Side The cut bottle will serve as the support frame of the Neck Decompression Traction Device. The concave side of the bottle provides the groove for the narrow portion of the back of the neck to rest.

  • EVA Foam Floor Tile The Neck Decompression Traction Device will have parts that will be padded. The padding will be provided by the strips of foam tile material. This includes the padding that will support the neck.

  • Used Bicycle Rubber Interior Tube This is a safety feature that will help avoid scratches on wooden chair furniture. The portable Neck Decompression Traction Device clips on to the top of the back of the chair. Any size of bicycle interior tube will do.

  • Contact Cement or Glue This will be used to assemble the parts for the portable Neck Decompression Traction Device.


Prepare the Support Frame

The support frame is the mounting fixture of the Neck Decompression Traction Device. It is the main body of the device. It is important that this frame is both sturdy and durable, yet bendable to allow it to clip to the top of the back of a chair.

  1. With a hacksaw, cut off both ends (mouth and bottom) of the water bottle, retaining the middle portion. The middle portion that remains is 5 inches length. The concave portion or groove on the side of the bottle should be in the center of this middle portion. In the figure below, I wrap a short masking tape around the part of the bottle just to facilitate sawing. On the remaining middle portion, also cut a lengthwise slit on the bottle using the hacksaw. The slit should be 1.5 inches wide.

  2. Shown below is the middle portion that is 5 inches long.

  3. The slit is shown below and is 1.5 inch wide. This project has no use for the sawed-off mouth of the bottle as well as the bottom, so you may discard them. This remaining piece will serve as the support frame for the Neck Decompression Traction device.

  4. With a file (round file or flat file) or sandpaper, remove the burrs and smoothen the edges on the Neck Decompression traction frame. Smoothen the edges cut on both ends as well as the edges of the open slit.

  5. Remove debris and wash and clean the support frame with soap and water. Cut the pointed corners at the ends of the slit with a pair of heavy-duty scissors as shown below.

  6. This is the resulting support frame of the Neck Decompression Traction portable device. Notice how the concave part or groove is right in the center of the support frame.

Assemble the Chair Pads

Chair pads inside the support frame will stablize the Neck Decompression Device when the patient uses it for therapy sessions. The chair pads that will be assembled will have a contour that allow these pads to hug or hold on to chair backs that are either rounded or pointed.

They are made of foam material which makes it ideal even for chairs with wooden backs. The foam will not scratch the chair's finish.

  1. Cut small pieces from the EVA foam floor tile. Typically, foam tiles have a thickness of 1/2 inch or thereabouts so the measurements listed are for width and length only. The measurements of the foam pieces I used are: 1 1/2 x 1, 1 1/2 x 2, 1 x 2 and 1/2 x 2 (all in inches). These are for just one end of the device. Double that number of pieces for both ends.

  2. Apply glue on the foam pieces and stick them together as shown in the succeeding photos.

  3. Notice that only one piece (1 1/2 x 1) of the 4 pieces is attached to the inside of support frame. The 3 other pieces are simply glued to each other.

  4. The 3 pieces are arranged progressively in size so that, together, they form and inverted pyramid.

  5. Do the same assembly on the other end of the support frame.

  6. Notice how symmetrical both ends are. In the inverted position below, the chair pads are like a series of steps. The contour provided by the pads hugs or holds any chair back that is pointed or rounded. But these pads will work on flat chair backs as well.

  7. Here's the bottom view of the assembled chair pads inside the support frame.

Prepare the Rubber Lining

The slit in the Neck Decompression Traction device is the part that clips on to the top of the chair back. It is important therefore that it is safe to use and won't scratch or mar the surface of wooden chair backs. A rubber lining will be used to address that.
  1. Cut a 5 1/2-inch length of a bicycle interior tubing. Pinch to flatten the tubing and attach some clothespins on one side. The clothespins prevent the tubing from shifting.

  2. With a pair of scissors, cut the other side as shown below.

  3. After cutting, you have a flat rectangular piece of rubber. From the piece of rectangular rubber, cut two strips that are 3/4-inch wide.

  4. Apply glue or contact cement on a width of 1/2-inch along the edge of the rubber strip.

  5. Attach the glued portion of the rubber strip on the inside of the edge of the support frame. The remaining 1/4 inch of unglued portion extends beyond the edge of the support frame as shown below.

  6. Apply the second rubber strip on the other edge of support frame.

Assemble the Neck Pads

The neck pads on the traction device will be the main contact point between your neck and the device. That is why we use the foam material to keep the contact of the skin with the device as soft and comfortable as possible.
  1. Glue two foam pieces on one end of the support frame as shown below. Measurements for the two pieces are: 3/4 x 1 1/2 and 1/2 x 1 (all in inches).

  2. Do the same for the other end of the support frame.

  3. Shown below are the completely glued parts of the neck pad on both ends. The middle part of the Neck Decompression Device is the groove (concave portion) where the back of the neck of the patient rests. The back of the base of the skull is then supported by the neck pads on both ends. This is the front view of the completed Neck Decompression Traction Device.

  4. This is the bottom view of Neck Decompression Traction Device. Note that the slit is easily opened because the heavy plastic of the bottle bends.

  5. This is the side view of the Neck Decompression Traction Device. Notice the slit of the frame. This is where the top of the back of the chair passes through. The edges of the device with the rubber linings then clips on to the top of the chair back.

How to Mount the Portable Neck Decompression Traction Device

Find a suitable chair with a back that's high enough to reach the base of the back of your skull. If the chair back is too high, you could add same seat pillows or folded blankets to sit on. The idea is to allow your neck or cervical vertebrae to stretch when you use the device for Neck Decompression Therapy. A chair with arm rests would be beneficial for relaxing neck therapy sessions.

  1. Slightly pull apart the slit edges of the portable traction device as you approach the chair. Notice the chair shown has a pointy chair back.

  2. Position the opened Neck Decompression Traction Device over the back of the chair and then lower it so that the top of the chair back passes through the slit. Once the chair pads touch the top of the chair back, release the edges so they snap into place. The edges with the rubber lining squeeze the chair back without scratching the surface.

  3. Press down the Neck Decompression Traction Device on both ends to ensure that it is horizontal and stable. The contour provided by the chair pads inside the device hugs pointed or rounded chair backs. This way, the device is secure and doesn't shift sideways.

  4. Shown below is the mounted portable Neck Decompression Traction Device on an armchair with a pointed back.

  5. The Portable Neck Decompression Traction Device will also work well on chairs with a a flat top back like the one below.

How to Use the Neck Decompression Traction Device

Using the Neck Decompression Traction Device is easy. There are no strings or fasteners to setup or bands to measure, adjust and fiddle with. It's just a matter of sitting down and positioning your head on the device and relaxing.
  1. Sit down comfortably in the chair with your back straight and your butt as close to the base of the chair back as possible.

  2. Stretch your spine higher by raising your chest. The stretch should feel like you have the longest spine possible. If you have long hair (like this patient during the pandemic), be sure to raise your hair at the back because the skin of the nape or neck needs to touch the neck pads of the device.

  3. Here is the side view for positioning the neck in the Neck Decompression Device. Ensure that no bunch of hair gets in between your neck and the device because that will diminish the traction on the device.

  4. Lean your head back to position the base of the back of the skull on the the top of the neck pads. Once you feel the traction of your neck pulling on the device, then the neck is engaged. Slowly lower your chest as your back relaxes. You will feel the pull of the traction device and the stretch on your neck vertebrae. It should just be a gentle pull.

  5. Shown below is how the stretch looks like from the side. In this position, your body is simply in a relaxed state. Preferably, your arms are resting calmly on the arm rests. Although your spine is relatively erect, you should not feel any tension on your chest, back or any part of the body. You should only feel the gentle pull on the Neck Decompression Traction Device.

Neck Pain Alleviation and Spinal Health

Once you've achieved this position, you'll immediately feel instant relief as your neck decompresses from the mild stretch. Feel the stretch for about 30 seconds and then release.

To release, simply raise your chest again and slightly lift the back of your head to disengage from the device. If you feel like you're unhooking from the Neck Decompression Traction device, then the feeling is just right.

Rest for about 10 seconds whle still sitting. Do three stretches and rests for each stretching therapy session for the spine. Do as many times in a day as necessary.

The first time I did this stretch, the relief was dramatic and very significant for me. Nowadays, I do these stretches a few times per week. I no longer need the nightly massages for my neck and back. Now, I'm able to sleep better.

Video Tutorial

Shown below is the video tutorial for this article:

Disclaimer: I'm not a medical doctor nor a practitioner. I only share information on techniques that have worked for me. The information contained in this topic is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

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