Posted by on Feb 27, 2015 in Health Tips/Information | Comments Off on Traction

Traction defined is a force applied to a part of the body to stretch soft tissues and to separate joint surfaces. Commonly used in chiropractic, traction allows the joints a time to be free from the effects of gravity. When the spinal column is free of downward force, the discs that lie in between the vertebral segments can become filled with nutrient-rich extracellular fluid, the ligaments and muscles can stretch and relax. This happens naturally as we sleep because the force of gravity acts differently upon us as we lie down. After we awaken from a night of sleep, we are slightly taller (up to 3/4 inch) than before we went to bed. This effect (known as imbibition) is due to the expansion of joint space caused by the influx of extracellular fluid that can enter without downward force pushing it out. For a fun experiment, try measuring yourself at the end of a long day, and immediately after you awaken.

Physiological Effect: The application of traction has many purposes.

  1. When performed intermittently, can have hydraulic pumping effects.
  2. Increases blood flow.
  3. Decreases swelling and chronic congestion of joints.
  4. Tones muscles.
  5. Increases nutrition to vertebral disc/s and cartilage by allowing in extracellular fluid.
  6. Stretches tight muscles and ligaments.
  7. Can help relieve muscle spasm.
  8. May help relieve headaches (primarily tension).
  9. Can assist in opening the space in the vertebrae through which the nerves must pass (called a foramen).

Subjective Experience: Traction can be a wonderful experience.

  1. Light pressure is noticed in the location that traction is being applied.
  2. The sensation of pressure being released in and around the joint is felt (much like a weight being lifted).
  3. The perception of elongation or lengthening is noticed.
  4. If traction is to be intermittent, a gradual increase and decrease of the stretch is noticed.
  5. As the traction comes to an end, the stretch gradually decreases. When complete, a feeling of relief and comfort is present.

Method of Application: There are several methods of applying traction.

  1. Gentle lifting and stretching done by hand. Constant traction can be continuous or intermittent, whereby the stretch is repeatedly initiated and released creating a gentle pumping effect.
  2. Harnesses, often affixed with weights, are commonly used.
  3. Special tables can be implemented that provide traction.
  4. Gravity can also be employed, such as inversion devices.



Lecture: Traction. Palmer college of Chiropractic West. 1988.

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