Coverage Policies

Important! Please note:

Current policies effective through April 30, 2024.

Use the index below to search for coverage information on specific medical conditions.

High-Tech Imaging: High-Tech Imaging services are administered by Evolent. For coverage information and authorizations, click here.

Medical Providers: Payment for care or services is based on eligibility, medical necessity and available benefits at time of service and is subject to all contractual exclusions and limitations, including pre-existing conditions if applicable.

Future eligibility cannot be guaranteed and should be rechecked at time of service. Verify benefits by signing into My Account or calling Customer Service at 800.235.7111 or 501.228.7111.

QualChoice follows care guidelines published by MCG Health.

Clinical Practice Guidelines for Providers (PDF)

QualChoice reserves the right to alter, amend, change or supplement medical policies as needed. QualChoice reviews and authorizes services and substances. CPT and HCPCS codes are listed as a convenience and any absent, new or changed codes do not alter the intent of the policy.


Effective Date: 10/06/2010 Title: Home Traction
Revision Date: 11/01/2016 Document: BI281:00
CPT Code(s): E0830, E0840, E0849, E0850, E0855, E0856, E0860, E0890, E0900
Public Statement

Effective Date:

a)    This policy will apply to all services performed on or after the above revision date which will become the new effective date.

b)    For all services referred to in this policy that were performed before the revision date, contact customer service for the rules that would apply.

1)    Auto traction devices, axial spinal unloading devices, and pneumatic lumbar traction devices are not covered, as these devices have not been shown to be effective for back pain or other indications.

2)    Cervical traction devices may be covered.  Most patients requiring home cervical traction are adequately treated with use of over the door traction, and do not need pneumatic devices.

3)    Home traction devices, when they are covered, are covered as rental or rent-to-own DME.

Medical Statement

1.     Pneumatic cervical traction devices for home use is considered medically necessary durable medical equipment (DME) to alleviate pain caused by paravertebral muscle spasm when all of the following criteria are met: 

A.    The member has completed a 6-week course of physical therapy in the outpatient setting and still has pain; and

B.    The member has failed medical therapy (e.g., oral anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants); and

C.    The doctor prescribes 20 pounds or more of home cervical traction; and

D.    Any one of the following criteria is met:

i.       The member failed a trial of over-the-door cervical traction; or

ii.      The member has temporomandibular joint disease which may become worse with over-the-door cervical traction; or

iii.    The member has distortion of the neck or chin (e.g., radical neck dissection) making use of a chinstrap impractical, and

E.    The member has had a series of trials of this device in the outpatient setting before being sent home with one; and

F.    Home therapy is being supervised by a physical therapist

Codes Used In This BI:

E0830 Ambulatory traction device, all types, each
E0840 Traction frame, attached to headboard, cervical traction
Traction equipment, cervical, freestanding stand/frame, pneumatic, applying traction force to other than mandible
E0850 Traction stand, freestanding, cervical traction
E0855 Cervical traction equipment not requiring addtl stand or frame
E0856 Cervical traction device, w/inflatable air bladder(s)
E0860 Traction equipment, overdoor, cervical
E0870 Traction frame, attached to footboard, extremity traction
E0880 Traction stand, freestanding, extremity traction
E0890 Traction frame, attached to footboard, pelvic traction
E0900 Traction stand, freestanding, pelvic traction


1.     Pneumatic cervical traction devices are considered experimental and investigational for all other indications.

2.     Auto traction devices are considered experimental and investigational because there is insufficient evidence to support their clinical value in treating low back pain or for other indications. (Brand names of auto traction devices include the Spinalator Spinalign massage intersegmental traction table, the Arthrotonic stabilizer, the Quantum 400 intersegmental traction table and the Anatomotor).

3.     Home pneumatic lumbar traction devices (e.g., Saunders Lumbar HomeTrac, Saunders STx, and Orthotrac Pneumatic Vest) are considered experimental and investigational because they have not been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for low back pain or other indications.

4.     Axial spinal unloading (gravity-dependent traction) devices (e.g., LTX 3000) are considered experimental and investigational for the treatment of low back pain or other indications because their effectiveness has not been established.


For decades, cervical traction has been applied widely for pain relief of neck muscle spasm or nerve root compression.  It is a technique in which a force is applied to a part of the body to reduce paravertebral muscle spasms by stretching soft tissues, and in certain circumstances separating facet joint surfaces or bony structures.  Additional pounds for cervical traction is usually utilized in the hospitals or clinics for temporary use and in certain situations and under observation with occasional imaging, making sure of not to destabilize the spine.  Studies have shown that traction must be constant so that the muscles may tire and the strain falls on the joints.  It generally takes 2 minutes of sustained traction before the intervertebral spaces begin to widen.  Forces between 20 and 50 pounds are commonly used to achieve intervertebral separation.

Cervical traction is administered by various techniques ranging from supine mechanical motorized cervical traction to seated cervical traction using an over-the-door pulley support with attached weights.  Duration of cervical traction can range from a few minutes to 30 minutes, once or twice weekly to several times per day.  Anecdotal evidence suggests efficacy and safety, but there is no documentation of efficacy of cervical traction beyond short-term pain reduction.  In general, over-the-door traction at home is limited to providing less than 20 pounds of traction.

Pneumatic cervical traction devices (e.g., Hometrac, Pronex) were developed to deliver cervical traction in the home comparable to forces applied by physical therapists in the outpatient setting.  The patient is instructed in home traction to relieve symptoms, an exercise routine to relieve spasm and discomfort, and to report any weaknesses, eye symptoms, and bladder or bowel incontinence immediately. 

There are some who argue that pneumatic cervical traction should be offered as first line therapy in preference to over-the-door cervical traction, asserting that pneumatic cervical traction is superior to over-the-door cervical traction.  There are, however, no studies in the peer reviewed published medical literature comparing over-the-door cervical traction with pneumatic traction devices.  Although pneumatic devices are able to provide more force than over-the-door traction devices, there are no peer-reviewed published clinical studies proving that clinical outcomes are improved by applying greater traction force.  In addition, the potential adverse effects of the application of large amounts of cervical traction with pneumatic devices in the home setting have not been sufficiently evaluated in well-designed published clinical studies.  There is also no published peer-reviewed evidence proving that pneumatic traction devices result in less irritation, improved compliance, or improved outcomes compared to over-the-door traction.  For these reasons, the uses of pneumatic cervical traction devices are reserved for persons with neck pain who have failed over-the-door cervical traction.

Traction is a widely used treatment for low back pain and it is often provided in combination with other treatment modalities.  Types of traction include mechanical traction, manual traction (unspecific or segmental traction), auto traction, gravity-dependent ("(anti-)gravity") traction, pneumatic traction, continuous traction, and intermittent traction.

The most commonly used traction techniques are manual traction (i.e., the traction is exerted by the therapist, using arms and/or legs of the patient), inverted suspension (i.e., the traction is exerted by gravitational forces, through the body weight of the patient), bed rest traction (i.e., the traction is exerted by a pulley and weights) and motorized traction (i.e., the traction is exerted by a motorized pulley).  Lumbar traction uses a harness (with Velcro strapping) that is put around the lower rib cage and around the iliac crest.  Duration and level of force exerted through this harness can be varied in a continuous or intermittent mode.

The American Pain Society/American College of Physicians` clinical practice guideline on non-pharmacological therapies for acute and chronic low back pain (Chou and Huffman, 2007) evaluated the benefits and harms of acupuncture, back schools, psychological therapies, exercise therapy, functional restoration, inter-disciplinary therapy, massage, physical therapies (interferential therapy, low-level laser therapy, lumbar supports, shortwave diathermy, superficial heat, traction, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and ultrasonography), spinal manipulation, and yoga for acute or chronic low back pain (with or without leg pain).  The authors concluded that therapies with good evidence of moderate efficacy for chronic or subacute low back pain are cognitive-behavioral therapy, exercise, spinal manipulation, and inter-disciplinary rehabilitation.  For acute low back pain, the only therapy with good evidence of efficacy is superficial heat.


1.     Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, Office of the Medical Director. Pronex and Hometrac cervical traction. Technology Assessment. Olympia, WA: Washington State Department of Labor and Industries; August 5, 2002. Available at: Accessed August 7, 2003.

2.     Verhagen AP, Scholten-Peeters GGM, van Wijngaarden S, et al. Conservative treatments for whiplash. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 ;( 2):CD003338.

3.     Bronfort G, Nilsson N, Haas M, et al. Non-invasive physical treatments for chronic/recurrent headache. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004 ;( 3):CD001878.

4.     Graham N, Gross AR, Goldsmith C; the Cervical Overview Group. Mechanical traction for mechanical neck disorders: A systematic review. J Rehabil Med. 2006; 38(3):145-152.

5.     Vaughn HT, Having KM, Rogers JL. Radiographic analysis of intervertebral separation with a 0 degrees and 30 degrees rope angle using the Saunders cervical traction device. Spine. 2006; 31(2):E39-E43.

6.     Binder A. Neck pain. In: BMJ Clinical Evidence. London, UK: BMJ Publishing Group; May 2007.

7.     Borenstein DG. Chronic neck pain: How to approach treatment. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2007; 11(6):436-439.

8.     American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). Neck and upper back complaints. Elk Grove Village, IL: ACOEM; 2004.

9.     Cleland JA, Whitman JM, Fritz JM, Palmer JA. Manual physical therapy, cervical traction, and strengthening exercises in patients with cervical radiculopathy: A case series. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2005; 35(12):802-811.

10. Graham N, Gross A, Goldsmith CH, et al. Mechanical traction for neck pain with or without radiculopathy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 ;( 3):CD006408.

11. Raney NH, Petersen EJ, Smith TA, et al. Development of a clinical prediction rule to identify patients with neck pain likely to benefit from cervical traction and exercise. Eur Spine J. 2009; 18(3):382-391.

12. Assendelft WJ, Morton SC, Yu EI, et al. Spinal manipulative therapy for low back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004 ;( 1):CD000447.

13. Philadelphia Panel. Philadelphia Panel evidence-based clinical practice guidelines on selected rehabilitation interventions for low back pain. Physical Therapy. 2001; 81(10):1641-1674.

14. Harte AA, Baxter GD, Gracey JH. The efficacy of traction for back pain: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2003; 84:1542-1553.

15. McIntosh G, Hall H. Low back pain (acute). In: BMJ Clinical Evidence. London, UK: BMJ Publishing Group; May 2007.

16. McIntosh G, Hall H. Low back pain (chronic). In: BMJ Clinical Evidence. London, UK: BMJ Publishing Group; May 2007.

17. Jordan J, Konstantinou K, O`Dowd J. Herniated disc. In: BMJ Clinical Evidence. London, UK: BMJ Publishing Group; July 2008.

18. Oliver D, Griffiths R, Roche J, Sahota O. Hip fracture. In: BMJ Clinical Evidence. London, UK: BMJ Publishing Group; January 2007.

19. Dallolio V. Lumbar spinal decompression with a pneumatic orthesis (Orthotrac): Preliminary study. Acta Neurochir Suppl. 2005; 92:133-137.

20. Chromy CA, Carey MT, Balgaard KG, Iaizzo PA. The potential use of axial spinal unloading in the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: A case series. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2006; 87(11):1447-1453.

21. Clarke J, Van Tulder M, Blomberg S, et al.  Traction for low back pain with or without sciatica: An updated systematic review within the framework of the Cochrane Collaboration. Spine. 2006; 31(14):1591-1599.

22. Luijsterburg PA, Verhagen AP, Ostelo RW, et al. Effectiveness of conservative treatments for the lumbosacral radicular syndrome: A systematic review. Europ Spine J. 2007; 16(7):881-899.

23. Clarke JA, van Tulder MW, Blomberg SE, et al. Traction for low-back pain with or without sciatica. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 ;( 2):CD003010.

24. Chou R, Huffman LH; American Pain Society; American College of Physicians. Nonpharmacologic therapies for acute and chronic low back pain: A review of the evidence for an American Pain Society/American College of Physicians clinical practice guideline. Ann Intern Med. 2007; 147(7):492-504.

Application to Products

This policy applies to all health plans and products administered by QualChoice, both those insured by QualChoice and those that are self-funded by the sponsoring employer, unless there is indication in this policy otherwise or a stated exclusion in your medical plan booklet.  Consult the individual plan sponsor Summary Plan Description (SPD) for self-insured plans or the specific Evidence of Coverage (EOC) or Certificate of Coverage (COC) for those plans or products insured by QualChoice.  In the event of a discrepancy between this policy and a self-insured customer’s SPD or the specific QualChoice EOC or COC, the SPD, EOC, or COC, as applicable, will prevail.  State and federal mandates will be followed as they apply.


Changes: QualChoice reserves the right to alter, amend, change or supplement benefit interpretations as needed.
This policy has recently been updated. Please use the index above or enter policy title in search bar for the latest version.