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Traction Therapy

Questions

What is Traction Therapy?

A traction is a treatment option that is based on the application of a longitudinal force to the axis of the spinal column. In other words, parts of the spinal column are pulled in opposite directions to stabilize or change the position of damaged aspects of the spine. The force is usually applied to the skull through a series of weights or a fixation device and requires that the patient is either kept in bed or placed in a halo vest. Traction is a manual technique designed to reduce pressure on affected vertebral discs that are causing pain. Traction is a manual ‘stretching’ of the spine which reduces pressure on the discs and therefore reduces the individual’s pain.

Cervical traction is commonly performed using manual, mechanical, or motorized methods (with a head or chin sling) or with the use of a supine posterior distraction unit. Mechanical cervical traction can be applied in the supine position, which reduces the weight of the head but increases frictional resistance. This position also allows for better control of the head by the patient and is typically more comfortable.

Lumbar traction requires a significantly greater force to create a distraction of the vertebral segments than cervical traction. Common traction systems include a thoracic or chest belt with a pelvic belt, inversion, a split traction table, or an auto traction table. Split traction tables have a mobile half and a stationary half. Auto traction tables allow both segments of the table to move and are controlled by the patient. The patient assumes the most pain-free position and performs active traction by pulling on an overhead bar. The patient then uses his or her feet to activate a bar, which alternates compressive and distracting forces.

What are the Different types of Traction Therapy?

Spinal traction therapy can be administered manually or mechanically, depending upon your need.

 

Manual Traction: In manual spinal traction, a physical therapist uses their hands to put people in a state of traction. Then they use manual force on the joints and muscles to widen the spaces between vertebrae. The period of traction generally doesn’t last very long. Manual traction sounds quite scary however it is a safe treatment option that can be effective for certain conditions.

 

Mechanical Traction: The specialized treatment technique of mechanical traction uses devices that work by stretching the spinal vertebrae and muscle. Mechanical traction allows for continuous or intermittent stretching on a traction table while combining heat, vibration, and/or massage. These tables can use computer-based systems to apply exact amounts and/or variations of pressure. Mechanical traction is, however, not appropriate for patients with serious bone conditions such as osteoporosis, osteomyelitis and bone cancer, or with heart disease and spinal cord diseases. It is also not appropriate for those with spinal fractures or arthritis. This type of treatment should only be considered following careful examination and diagnosis, and professionally supervised by a licensed physical therapist or doctor to ensure effectiveness and safety

How does it work?

A disc is a circular structure that sits between each vertebra in the spine. It has a tough outer layer surrounding soft inner tissue. When a disc is under pressure and damaged, the tough outer layer is damaged and the soft inside protrudes through the gap. This protrusion compresses nearby nerves causing pain. Traction pulls the vertebra away from the disc, releasing the pressure on the disc. This assists the soft part of the disc to return within the disc. This decompresses the nerve and reduces pain. This also helps to rehydrate the disc. Traction relieves pressure on the spine and alleviates pain. Cervical traction and lumbar traction are similar, but they have a couple of key differences: with cervical traction, a gentle force is used to stretch or pull the head away from the neck. With lumbar traction, a gentle force is used to gently gap the pelvis from the lower back. Both of these methods are useful in manipulating the spine and providing relief.

Conditions Treated?

Traction is a technique used to stretch soft tissues and separate joint surfaces or bone fragments using a pulling force. The force applied must be of sufficient magnitude and duration in the proper direction while resisting movement of the body with an equal and opposite force. People with specific spinal conditions benefit from this therapy and is most commonly used to treat:

 

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