Manual Therapy

The goal of manual therapy techniques is to relax tense muscles and restricted joints in an effort to decrease pain and improve range of motion. Generally, manual therapy techniques refer to “hands on” work that is performed by physical therapists, and typically includes the use of three types of movement:     

Soft tissue mobilization (including trigger point therapy, deep tissue massage, etc.)      

  • Applies pressure to the soft tissues of the body including the muscles, ligaments, and tendons
  • This pressure helps to relax muscles, break up scar tissue adhesions, increase circulation, and relieve pain

Joint Mobilization

  • Can either be a sustained pressure or a rhythmic oscillation applied to the affected joint(s)
  • Helps to decrease pain and improve joint function and mobility

Joint Manipulation

  • Involves a high velocity, low amplitude thrust applied to a specific joint
  • Utilized when joint mobilization is no longer effective
  • Helps to decrease pain and improve joint function and mobility
  • Often there is a cavitation, or a popping sound, as gas is released from the joint space

How Is Manual Physical Therapy Different From Other Types of Therapies?

It may seem that manual therapy is similar to other types of treatments, such as massage, chiropractic, or other osteopathic therapies. However, one key difference is in the assessment process behind the treatment and integration of manual therapy into the patient’s personalized exercise program.

Manual physical therapy is based on careful examination of the patient’s movement patterns, including range of motion restrictions and compensatory movements that can prevent healing. Assessment is continuously done throughout treatment and techniques are altered to accommodate the patient’s response to the treatment provided. Research has shown that the most effective treatments involve a combination of customized manual therapy interventions combined with specific exercises to restore function.

There are numerous conditions that can be treated with manual therapy, including:

  • Neck pain (muscle spasm, disc herniation, etc.)
  • Lower back pain (disc herniation, facet joint restriction, spinal stenosis, etc.)
  • Thoracic spine pain (disc herniation, rib restriction, etc.)
  • Migraines/headaches
  • Temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction
  • Shoulder pain (impingement syndrome, frozen shoulder, rotator cuff injury, etc.)
  • Hip pain (hip bursitis, post-surgical hip replacement, myofascial hip pain, hip impingement, etc.)
  • Knee pain (iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemoral dysfunction, post-surgical knee replacement, etc.)
  • Ankle pain (ankle sprains/strains, arthritis, etc.)