Section VI. TRACTION
a. Traction is the act of exerting a pulling force. To be therapeutic, traction
applied in one direction requires countertraction (exertion of pull in the opposite
direction). Countertraction is supplied by the patient's body weight and friction against
the bed. Additional countertraction may be achieved by elevating the head or foot of the
bed or by application of counter traction apparatus.
b. Traction is used to:
Prevent fracture deformities.
Relieve muscle spasm.
Help regain the normal length and alignment of an injured extremity.
c. The basic methods of applying traction are referred to as skin traction and
(1) Skin traction. Adhesive material is applied to a limb or a halter is fitted to
the patient's head or pelvis. The adhesive material or the halter is then attached to a
traction apparatus and force is exerted by means of a pulley and weights.
(2) Skeletal traction. Force is exerted directly on the bone by tongs inserted
into the skull or a pin or wire inserted through the bone at a point distal to the fracture of
an extremity. The tong, pin, or wire is then attached to the traction apparatus and force
is exerted by means of pulleys and weights. A greater pull can be exerted by skeletal
traction than by skin traction.
d. The two basic forms of traction that may be produced are referred to as
balanced suspension traction and running traction.
(1) Balanced suspension traction. Direct pull on the part is applied with the
extremity supported in a splint and held in place with balanced counterweights
(examples: Thomas splint with Pearson attachment). The extremity "floats" or is
suspended in the traction apparatus by the balanced weights. The line of traction on
the extremity remains fairly constant despite any changes in the position of the patient.
This principle may be utilized in both skin and skeletal traction and may be either
unilateral or bilateral.