Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Band Traction (Part 1 of 2)

JumpStretch Bands are useful in many, many ways

Band Traction
   This technique is used for treating many ailments common to joints, however it isn’t commonly utilized, I fear due to ignorance of it. Seeing as how it has fixed many issues and lessened (or even eliminated) many cases of joint pain, I feel its use amongst athletes should be more common.
   Common traction involves attaching a band to a stationary object and also to a body part/limb, and pulling the body away from the anchor to generate tension. This tension generated by the elastic properties in the band can serve to lengthen the joint complex it is applied to and can cause several audible ‘pops’ as blood gases trapped inside the joint can be released. These sounds do not correlate to any benefit or beneficial effect other than a possible placebo effect of pain reduction. The relocation of the joint itself however, including the lengthening of chronically shortened/inflamed/irritated stabilizer muscles, can be of actual benefit to the user. We generally go for several minutes (at least 60 seconds) in each position as part of a good warmup, although this is also done on days off to better prepare ourselves for the next training day. Many consider this recovery work since it helps them so much.
   Shoulder Traction
   If you check out the following links you can see Dave Tate (CEO of Elite FTS) showing how overhead, frontal, and lower traction can be set up on the shoulder complex. This is good, but a very basic overview.
There are more ways to develop traction in the shoulder complex that are less common, and most are usually more effective in generating the effect we want. Here is a series of photos to show how the band is wrapped AROUND the wrist instead of being held in the hand:
Step 1
Step 2: Wrap over
Step 3: Wrap under
Step 4: Wrap under complete
Other positions for shoulder traction:
Note staggered stance, same side leg forward, and thumb upward pointing
Another view for better visibility
The pictures above show a lunge-type stretch done facing away from the band traction anchor point. The key points here that make this traction position different are 1) the thumb must face upward to pull the shoulder back in relation to the pectoral structure (can help correct anterior shoulder positioning and overtight pecs), and 2) the forward leg in this staggered stance is the same side as the arm/shoulder being tractioned (this ensures a "lean-away" position and a much better stretch)

Kneeling position, note head lower than plane of shoulders
This kneeling position helps with MANY things all at once, and overhead traction (and behind the head traction even) is a position/ROM so foreign to many of us that this will start correcting issues very quickly. This can stretch and pull apart fascia and muscles in the lats, pecs, shoulder complex, etc. and does so in a plane seldom experienced in adult life. Lean/sit away from the traction anchor point and if this position is 12 o'clock, lean a little to the left for a 10 o'clock position and added ROM/fascia work, and then repeat to the right for a 2 o'clock position as well.

 If you would like a more technical description and a little more info on shoulder traction, go here:

Ankle Traction
The next 4 photos show how to set up basic traction for the ankle that allows for independent inversion/eversion of the ankle. This works exceedingly well for tractioning ankle sprains, and sore ankles. You can adjust the tension independently for inversion/eversion traction by looping the band around the anchor multiple times for higher tension. Mini bands work well, so do monster minis; even micro miniswork for sore or sensitive ankles.
Loop around foot to one side
Lower section of band moved below heel
Loop another band around to other side
Pull bands up and away to anchor
Alternative Single Plane Ankle Traction
This picture shows the setup for simple traction and allows for ankle traction in one plane, as well as a manner of stretching the plantar fascia and arch structure.
Pull top arch structure away and traction band against this tension closer toward toes.

Shows an easy way of setting up this by yourself
Lower Back TractionThis video was created by Dick Hartzell (inventor of Jumpstretch Bands) I believe and shows several ways to generate lower back traction and several ways that arent common (lumbar traction w/ back extension). Refer to this if you have problems setting up the traction from the pictures I provided or to simply get another point of view:

Alternative Method 1: Decompression and Simultaneous Traction
This method is very efficient for reducing back pain due to disc injury and was shown to me by my friend Eric Richardson, with some alteration for increased traction. Setting up this traction is difficult until you learn how to scoot back and roll the ball back underneath yourself a little at a time. Be sure to let your bodyweight sit fully onto the swiss ball and also be pulled away by the band. We find average or strong bands to be best for this, especially for those over 200 lbs.
Loop band around T-Spine and under armpit
Lean forward and drop center of bodyweight onto apex of swiss ball. Allow band to pull shoulders away from hips and lengthen the spine.
Alternative Method 2: Similar to Egoscue Method
This method allows for contralateral traction across the pelvis/spine complex; this is accomplished by letting the leg hanging in the traction band to freely pull downward, generating its own traction. This leg should sit here in traction for at least 6 minutes, and for best effect 10 minutes is reccommended. While this mild traction occurs, the lumbar spine should be flattened out to touch the floor. The arch in the spine should decrease during this time and the real key here is to attempt to touch your belly button to your spine (TVA activation). Make sure the opposite leg (not in traction) maintains 2 90-degree angles: at the hip, and at the knee. Placing this leg on a chair or bench works equally well. This traction helps immensely with lengthening hamstrings and glutes. Make sure you get both legs tractioned!

Hip Traction
Very few people do better at explaining the 'super couch' position/stretch than the guy who invented it - Kelly Starret. I wont attempt to show you pictures of myself when Kelly already has a video on it, how to set it up, and he happens to be big into manhugs. lol. Enjoy:

Neck Traction
Neck traction is fairly easy to accomplish and can be done by laying back with a band holding up the weight up the skull. If you feel light headed or like you will pass out, get out of the traction setup. Be sure to wrap a small towel around the band to avoid essentially choking yourself out! This can be done with a foam roller underneath the neck as well, and both setups can be effective at removing tension headaches as a nice bonus.
Be sure you can maintain circulation to your head: its not too hard to pinch off the carotid arteries like this.
Article 2 will be coming soon on band distraction (traction with movement).


  1. Love the article Tex, how about some info on knee traction techniques? I have a client with multiple menisci tears leaving him with close to no cartilage actually anything regarding knee rehabilitation would be welcome. Thanks and keep em comin brother.


  2. good information keep it up U K all the way