Traction is the application of a mild stretch to muscles, ligaments, and tissue to provide relief of pain resulting from a variety of conditions, such as muscle spasm, nerve root compression, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, and others. Traction is frequently used to treat the spine, most often either the cervical or the lumbar spine. When used on the spine, traction promotes separation of the intervertebral joint spaces to reduce impingement of structures in the area. The goal of traction is usually short term pain relief, returning the patient to normal range of motion, and return to work.
Although traction can be accomplished in a variety of ways, home traction is commonly achieved using a system of pulleys, weights, and counterweights connected to a stand (either freestanding or attached to the bed) or “over-the-door” equipment. Some pneumatic devices are worn like a garment or brace. These are inflated by the patient and are designed to lift the patient’s body weight off the spine and relieve intervertebral compression. Other pneumatic devices, such as Ctrac for carpal tunnel, are designed to relieve pressure on nerves or other structures by stretching ligaments in the area. Some of these devices allow the patient to be ambulatory during treatment (such as the Orthotrac Pneumatic Vest), while others require the patient to remain stationary. The LTX-3000 system is a gravity-dependent spinal uploading device that promotes controlled spinal distraction by suspending the patient in a seated position, with the body weight supported from the rib cage by means of a brace-type device fastened around the lower chest. All of these devices are designed to be used on an intermittent basis, usually two or three times per day.
These devices are considered a Class I device by the FDA. This classification requires notification of the FDA prior to marketing, but does not require submission of clinical data regarding efficacy.