Traction Table

Everything There Is To Know About Traction Tables

There are two types of tools in modern medicine called a traction table. Sometimes they may look similar, but these tools are used in two entirely different fields of medicine.

The first one is a specific instrument utilized in stretching different body parts (e. g., back, neck, loin, limbs). It is mostly used in spine decompression and for short-term relief of pain symptoms.

The second is a tool for performing various manipulations on long tubular bones like the femur, tibia, and rarely, humerus. These operations include, among others, hip arthroscopy, fracture fixation, and less invasive arthroplasty.

The word “traction” originates from the Latin word “tractico,” which means “pulling process” or “drawing process.” Those actions accurately describe the primary treatment mechanism behind the use of both types of these tools.


Manfred Broberg was the first registered inventor of a tool similar in appearance to the apparatus used nowadays by osteopaths, general physicians, and chiropractors. 

He registered the patent, named “Adjustable traction-table” on the 25th of April, 1915. There were lots of small improvements and reinventions throughout the next century. Still, the main working principle always remained the same.

R. Anderson invented the first device for orthopedic purposes on the 4th of May, 1937. There were also lots of different small engineering improvements and future patents with similar inventions in the future. Similarly to the last instance, the primary working mechanism remained unchanged. 

Until 1937, these tools weren’t divided into contemporary categories and were rarely used by general practitioners. However, following the showcase of R. Anderson’s invention, the popularity of all the devices increased dramatically. 

While orthopedists began to develop and study different techniques for using the tools (Bryant’s, Buck’s, Dunlop’s tractions) to cure diseases; osteopaths and chiropractors mostly used them to relieve patients’ unpleasant symptoms (pain, paraesthesia, tension).

Indications to Use

According to studies, using this equipment during osteosynthesis sessions can potentially help prevent the development of complications early. 

These complications typically develop several years after the surgery and can include osteomyelitis, wound infection, inflammation of the bone’s tissues, among others. 

The treatment process is usually long and tedious, and the patients may never return to a healthy state. In any case, increased possibilities became possible in orthopedics with the registration of this tool in the USA Patent Buro in 1937. 

In Orthopedics

This tool is mostly used in orthopedic practice when a pathological process of any kind involves the long tubular bones of the body. Doctors can use this device for both the treatment and diagnosis of the following injuries:

  • femur diaphysis fractures
  • femur caput fractures
  • femur cervical fractures
  • tibia diaphysis fractures
  • multi-fragmented fractures of long tubular bones
  • pathological fractures of long tubular bones
  • arthrosis of hip, knee, and rarely shoulder joints
  • dislocation of hip, knee, and shoulder joints

The traction table can also be used as a diagnostic tool to confirm fractures and to distinguish dislocations from fractures. For this purpose, when tension slowly reaches the critical indicators, the dislocation repositions and resolves. However, fracture signs do not disappear as quickly or as easily. There is some professional debate regarding the difference in the efficacy of traction tables and manual traction.

Using this tool, the process of treatment is mostly based on skeletal traction. A few long, thin, and stable metallic implants are inserted into the most durable portions of the bone (tuberosities, condyles, roughnesses) and set the best physiological position for the bone.

Sometimes, when the fracture, number of bone fragments, and a few other specifications matching this treatment also require additional osteosynthesis, the doctor typically inserts the stable, thick, and long titan implant inside the bone marrow canal, using it as a column.

In some situations, fractures also can be immobilized by metallic plates and screws. The usage of this apparatus requires prolonged immobilization, therefore it usually cannot be applied safely and effectively in infant patients.

In Osteopathy and Chiropractic Practice

The main reason why patients visit osteopaths is the fear of needing a surgical procedure. Sometimes, they prefer visiting medical practitioners who use noninvasive treatments for years to avoid a simple intervertebral disc herniation from being surgically managed.

Usually, most chiropractors and osteopaths do not aim to cure their patients, but they aim to perform numerous, often unspecified, and self-created techniques to relieve the most expressed symptoms. Often, it’s a variation of back pain. Chiropractors us traction tables to treat people with these pathologies:

  • intervertebral disc herniation
  • radicular syndrome
  • osteochondrosis
  • ankylosing hyperostosis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • spondylosis
  • discosis

Using the device helps achieve slow and stable spine decompression, which leads to straightening and allows the person to revert to their natural physiological position of the back for a short time. The patient shows up again after some time as the main etiological factor is not eliminated after simple stretching.

Possible Complications

According to many research studies, using any stretching techniques during the treatment of different spine pathologies may lead to unpredictable, negative consequences. 

We gathered the most frequent and dangerous complications of manual therapy and orthopedic cases. There are two primary groups of possible complications after using undergoing treatment with this device. The groups are physiological and pathological and the following list states some common ailments:

  • Physiological:
    • muscular recurrent atrophy
    • leg polyneuropathy
    • weight enlargement
    • light paresthesias
    • scars and fibrosis marks
    • DOMS
  • Pathological:
    • bones fractures
    • muscle sprains and brakes
    • osteomyelitis
    • ligament sprains and brakes
    • spinal cord trauma
    • infected wound
    • and many others

One of the main problems when using this apparatus is a lack of programs or AI-controlled parts. Using exact measurements, calculated by a machine, could have a severe impact on the success of the treatment and determine the future development of any type of pathological complication.

General Specifications

Many chiropractors prefer to use tools they themselves created independently. Even though they are basically alternatively built traction tables, each one has its unique specifications. So, the following features are typical specifications of tools used for general purposes:

  • Traction mechanism:
    • Traction regimes - lumbar, cervical, for limbs
    • Time of one procedure - 0 - 60 min
    • Traction force - 5 - 45 kgs
    • Time management features - rest, hold, and time set
    • Electro energy supply - 220 - 240V, 50Hz
    • Accessories - cervical collar, spreader bar, patient stop switch, lumbar belt;
  • Table specifications:
    • Sections - at least two
      • Section width - at least 0.50 m
      • Section length - at least 1.9 m
    • Powder-coated mild steel body - Universal
    • Soft mattress - Universal
    • Footrest - Optional
    • Traction unit facility - Universal
    • Counter traction armpit - Universal
    • Remote control - Optional

Note: “Universal” means that all devices are supplied with those parts. “Optional” refers to optional parts that are often used for more specialized purposes or comfort/convenience

How Traction Tables Work

The primary working mechanism of this apparatus allows patients to undergo a slow, persistent stretching of the whole human limb or spine.

Doctors decide whether the force of stretching increases during the next few days or stays the same. They also determine when any part of the apparatus needs to be added or removed from the patient’s body or mechanism.

During any treatment using the device, the patient needs to try their best not to move their injured body parts. Doctors often take an X-ray to make sure the consolidation process is developing properly. When a bone callus forms, it is at this point the patient needs the help of a physiotherapist. 

There are enough models on the market that can help any general practitioner that wants to practice manual therapy.

These devices include all the necessary components for cervical and lumbar stretching regimes at the least. In the first case, the patient should put on the cervical collar and fixate the lumbar part of the spine. In the second, they should put on a lumbar belt, and fixate the cervical portion of the spine.

Market Leaders

Chiropractors and osteopaths usually use their own body weight or the patient’s body weight to exert force. They typically prefer using self-made tools. Either way, the market for these tools exists with several leaders in quality and popularity:

  • Quality:
    • Armedica
    • Everyway 4 All
    • Chattanooga
    • Innova
    • Teeter
    • Nubax
  • Popularity:
    • Exerpeutic
    • Stamina Inline
    • YOLEO

Many modern orthopedists often find manual manipulations during examinations and operations as their method of choice for treatment, but these manufacturers offer the device for greater control during the process.


Traction tables are handy tools that can be used in everyday practice for many medical practitioners. Nowadays, the most significant niche of professionals that use the equipment are in orthopedics, and sometimes osteopathy, chiropractic care, and different varieties of manual therapy.

The equipment we have discussed in this article helps doctors perform various types of treatment techniques and diagnostic procedures. The most favorable treatment effects of these instruments are still largely unknown.

It should be noted that this tool opened a wide diversity of additional treatment methods for various long bones fractures, arthroses, and joint dislocation. Medical practitioners will continue developing new techniques and methods for using this apparatus.