Traction is used most often by physical therapists for the relief of neck and arm pain or low back pain with leg pain from nerve irritation. The traction is usually motorized in the clinic.
The patient lies down on a table and either the head or the pelvis is secured in the traction. As the motor runs, the table is pulled apart and traction is applied to the joints. The position is held for a short time and then gently released. The cycle of traction - hold - release is repeated during a 10 to 20 minute period of time. Weight applied varies according to the patient size and symptoms.
Traction can be used at home with a pulley and weight system for the head and neck. This is a form of gravitational traction. The patient is sitting or lying down with a traction sling around the base of the skull. The sling is attached to a rope that goes through a pulley above the patient's head. Weights are placed at the bottom of the pulley to apply a downward pull thus putting traction on the head and neck.
You may have seen machines advertised on TV that allow you to hang upside down for relief of back pain or to keep your back healthy. This is another type of gravitational traction.
Autotraction is another type of traction. Basically, the patient exerts the force on him or herself by pushing or pulling on the device. The therapist can also apply manual traction using his or her hands to apply a pulling force on your head or pelvis.