Traction of the hip is often used as part of therapy used by a number of different therapists so I was keen to see if regular use at home made a difference. As a 45-year-old long-term hip pain sufferer, I was recently asked by former sprinter Mark Dunwell to try the HipTrac leg traction device.
I am owner and creator of Sportsinjuryclinic.net, a former Sports Therapist and Decathlete who also spent a number of years running up and down mountains with heavy weights on my back. Last year I underwent Surgery to repair a torn labrum with arthritis caused by Cam Impingement (an increasingly common diagnosis amongst highly active former sports people).
Although I have been told not to run again I do attempt the occasional ‘shuffle’ on soft surfaces, managing the resulting joint pain and inflammation through mobility exercises and Ibuprofen!
Traction of the hip is not a new concept. For over 100 years, health care practitioners (including myself) have performed manual traction to the hip joint as part of treatment and it is an accepted form of manual therapy by all physical therapists, chiropractors, and medical/osteopathic physicians.
Numerous studies have been done on the effectiveness of hip traction but as someone naturally skeptical about home exercise/therapy equipment I was keen to give it a go.
How does it work?
Very simply my leg is strapped in and hooked onto the device. I use a small hand pump to force air into a cylinder, which expands applying gradual traction to the hip joint.
How does it feel?
Good! The feeling of traction on the hip joint is relaxing and feels as if the pressure and pain in the joint are being released. The temptation is to keep increasing the traction as much as possible and with the HipTrac, far higher forces can be applied for longer than with manual therapy or other homemade device involving elastic resistance bands I have been able to dream up. Traction is kept on for about 30 minutes, releasing tension occasionally for a few seconds now and then.
Has it helped my pain?
Yes! Immediately after I noticed an improvement in range of movement and pain. Lifting the knee up felt incredibly light which I suspect is due to the small increase in the joint gap.
Having used the device regularly for a few weeks now I think the inflammation in the joint has reduced and my running sessions have improved from 6 x 90m strides (limping at the end) to 10 x 300m at the same pace with no after effects. Although this is certainly not a scientific study and many other factors are involved including the continuing recovery from the surgery I have been pleasantly surprised at how well it was worked.
Are there any downsides?
As with all home exercise and therapy equipment, it is far more effective if it is not left in the spare room or hidden under the bed and is actually used. Having the discipline to make time to set it up and use it has prescribed on a regular basis is important.
The cost may put some people off, particularly if they are not aware of how effective it may be before buying. But there is a trial rental option for you to be able to try the device out at http://hiptrac.co.uk/hiptrac-rental/ in the UK and compared with the £6000+ for surgery or the many physiotherapy appointments that could be needed it is likely to be a good investment for many people.
Who would I recommend it for?
Anyone who has long-term hip pain or arthritis of the hip, either for those who want to remain active, manage symptoms naturally and delay the possible need to have surgery. Or like myself if you have had surgery and still suffer a little from arthritis or wear and tear in the joint.