I’ve been asked the question, “can patients hurt themselves using HipTrac?” It is virtually impossible to hurt yourself using HipTrac correctly. HipTrac replicates the most common manual therapy technique used to treat intra-articular hip problems; Long Axis Traction. It safely decreases pressure within the hip joint, reduces pain and improves capsular mobility. It is used to treat hip osteoarthritis, femoral-acetabular impingement, labral pathology as well as other joint problems. In healthy hips of elite and professional athletes, it is also used for recovery after and between intensive training creating a relaxed state around the lumbopelvic and hip regions. It is one of the few techniques that you can use for nearly everything around the hip and lower back without worry.
As with all manual therapy techniques, there are contraindications including fractures, malignancy, instabilities as well as other pathologies. If manual traction is safe for the individual, then HipTrac is safe for the individual as it exactly replicates the manual technique. One aspect that makes it even safer than most manual traction techniques is that it truly is femoral-acetabular traction. The pelvis is held in place as the femur is distracted. This is especially important with sensitive lumbar spines that may not react well to full traction such as some spondylolistheses.
Some individuals can feel some soft tissue soreness upon initial use, but that is not unlike irritated gums from flossing the first time. When people floss, their gums bleed, but they don’t make an appointment to see their physician. In fact, they keep consistently flossing and the soft tissues slowly remodel and adapt into healthier tissues. Minimize any normal soft tissue response by starting off at lower levels and slowly progressing into higher levels as appropriate.
Studies show that 400 N of force is needed to decompress the human hip and other studies show 800 N of force is even better to further improve outcomes, pain levels and overall functional index scores. The HipTrac is able to comfortably achieve 0-1000 N of force in a slow, smooth and patient-controlled manner. When used properly, it is a completely safe and effective tool that has helped thousands of patients around the world.
There is one example in which both strong manual traction and HipTrac is not contraindicated, but would not be recommended. In the case of a patient who is hypermobile without capsular restrictions and has a significant labral tear. Powerful manual traction or HipTrac would not damage the hip in this situation, but may create significant hypertonicity of psoas, QL or other muscles around the hip as a protective response. In these cases, many individuals would benefit from light unloading through use of a SuperBand or CrossFit Band.