What is traction?

Traction, when used by physiotherapists, involves distracting joints by pulling the surfaces of the joints apart. It is a useful technique to offload joints and facilitate accessory movements to occur at a joint.This has the effect of mobilisng a joint and reducing pain.

Manual Traction

Manual traction involves the physiotherapist manually pulling the joint apart by fixing proximal to the joint and applying a longitudinal force distal to the joint to distract the joint. Sometimes the joint will be fixed using a belt or another therapist to stabilize the joint.

Mechanical Traction


Mechanical Traction involves using a special machine to distract the joints in the spine. This can be very useful for chronically stiff spines, but is also very useful in treating difficult disc injuries.

It works by creating a negative pressure within the disc by distracting the vertebrae attached to the disc, the aim is to “suck” the bulge back into position. It will then be possible to settle the disc with movements.

This technique is not widely used today, however it is a very useful tool to have when a client comes in who has “tried everything”, We have a traction couch, and do use it when all else seems to have failed. We do however advocate that clients manage their own pain where possible with exercise and lifestyle changes.