Cervical distraction test


  • To determine if radicular symptoms alleviate on applying traction to the cervical spine.
  • To identify the presence of cervical radiculopathy among patients with upper quadrant pain.

Patient Position: Sitting upright, Supine.

Examiner Position: Beside the patient, Standing at the patient’s head side.

Procedure: Place one hand on the chin and another hand on the occiput. Carefully apply distraction force cephalad. Ask if the radicular symptoms are relieved.

Outcome: The test is positive if the radiating pain down the arm is relieved. The findings should be used to confirm cervical radiculopathy/nerve compression, in conjunction with other neurologic/manual tests.

Other names: Distraction test.

1. Rubinstein SM, Pool JJM, van Tulder MW, Riphagen II, de Vet HCW. A systemic review of the diagnostic accuracy of provocative tests of the neck for diagnosing cervical radiculopathy. Eur Spine J.2007;16:307-319.
2. Magee DJ. Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 5th ed. St. Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier; 2008.
3. Wainner, Robert S., et al. “Reliability and diagnostic accuracy of the clinical examination and patient self-report measures for cervical radiculopathy.” Spine 28.1 (2003): 52-62.

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