Traction is rarely used in diagnostic and more frequently used in therapy (mostly together with repositioning of the skull and then halo fixation).
Traction basically pulls your head from your spine which relieves the intervertebral discs, nerves and other structures that might be compressed. With simultaneous repositioning it is ensured that the structures will continue to be relieved. That’s why often the cervical spine is then fixed in that correct position.
CAUTION! Excessive traction can cause additional damage, especially with already stretched ligaments. Do not use online available self therapy traction devices!
Note: We’re NOT talking about traction therapy like sling tables. This should be avoided with c-spine instabilities.
Traction as diagnostic test is rarely used and as therapy it should only be performed by specialists and in combination with other therapies such as the application of a halo.
Kalantar BS, Hipp JA, Reitman CA, Dreiangel N, Ben-Galim P. Diagnosis of unstable cervical spine injuries: Laboratory support for the use of axial traction to diagnose cervical spine instability. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. 2010 Oct 1; 69 (4): 889-95.