Traction is the use of a pulling force to treat muscle and skeleton disorders.
Traction is usually applied to the arms and legs, the neck, the backbone, or the pelvis. It is used to treat fractures, dislocations, and long-duration muscle spasms, and to prevent or correct deformities. Traction can either be short-term, as at an accident scene, or long-term, when it is used in a hospital setting.
Traction serves several purposes:
it aligns the ends of a fracture by pulling the limb into a straight position
it ends muscle spasm
it relieves pain
it takes the pressure off the bone ends by relaxing the muscle
There are two main types of traction: skin traction and skeletal traction. Within these types, many specialized forms of traction have been developed to address problems in particular parts of the body. The application of traction is an exacting technique that requires training and experience, since incorrectly applied traction can cause harm.
Positioning the extremity so that the angle of pull brings the ends of the fracture together is essential. Elaborate methods of weights, counterweights, and pulleys have been developed to provide the appropriate force while keeping the bones aligned and preventing muscle spasm. The patient's age, weight, and medical condition are all taken into account when deciding on the type and degree of traction.