At Mana Physical Therapy, we pride ourselves on being advanced orthopedic practitioners with refined manual therapy skills, but what does that mean for you?
What is Manual Therapy?
Manual therapy is the use of hands-on techniques to reduce pain and/or restore mobility. These techniques include mobilizing and manipulating soft-tissues, such as muscles, and bone/joints in order to increase circulation, reduce adhesions, relax muscles or improve range of motion. All of the above will ultimately help to reduce pain.
Three Manual Therapy Techniques Commonly Used
Joint mobilizations: This technique involves a physical therapist using his/her hands to help loosen up a joint and improve its range of motion. Joint movement is not something a patient can achieve on their own and is often effective in helping to alleviate pain related to muscle spasms. Muscles tend to spasm because a joint has become restricted and until the normal joint motion is restored, the muscles around that area will usually continue to spasm.
Soft Tissue Mobilization/Myofascial Release: Once joint motion improves, the soft tissues may continue to have tension. This is when a physical therapist will implement soft tissue mobilization techniques. These involve movement of the tissue to improve fluid dynamics, decrease myofascial adhesions (scar tissue) and decrease pain/tension in the area. Specifically techniques such as instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, kneading and dynamic cupping are effective in achieving the above outcomes.
High velocity-low amplitude thrust techniques: These techniques involve taking a restricted joint to the end of its available range and thrusting (about ⅛ of an inch) to the end of the joint’s range of motion. The technique is an aggressive joint mobilization technique but only moves the joint within its normal anatomical limit. It is very effective for stiff joints, when indicates and does not increase pain or damage the joint.
Is It Painful?
Manual therapy is not meant to hurt, but there may be some discomfort felt because your physical therapist will be working on a painful or restricted area. However, manual therapy is designed to help improve the patient’s symptoms; this is why actively communicating with your physical therapist is crucial to success with manual interventions. A full assessment of your condition is alway completed before starting any hands-on technique and the techniques are then individualized to fit your specific needs and tolerance.
How Is This Different Than a Massage?
Some aspects of manual therapy are very similar to massage, however, manual therapy addresses very specific restrictions in soft tissues and joints. It is a therapeutic treatment performed by a licensed physical therapist who has extensive knowledge of anatomy.
Can I just Stretch and Exercise?
While both of these are important, exercise and stretching alone cannot target specific areas like manual therapy can. Exercise is of course a valuable part of physical therapy and research shows that manual therapy combined with exercise is the more effective treatment than either performed in isolation.
Manual therapy involves hands-on techniques which are tailored to your condition. Manual therapy can address all areas of the body and is extremely effective when combined with therapeutic exercise. At Mana Physical Therapy we take the time to assess your specific needs and developed an intervention program right for you. If you are experiencing any aches, pains or just have some general questions on how we can help you, give us a call!
Abbott, J.H. et al. Manual therapy, exercise therapy, or both, in addition to usual care, for osteoarthritis of the hip or knee: a randomized controlled trial. 1: clinical effectiveness. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2013; 21, 4: 525-34.
Bang M, Deyle G. Comparison of Supervised Exercise with and without Manual Physical Therapy for Patients with Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 2000; 30: 126-137.
Niemisto L, Lahtinen-Suopanki T, Rissanen P, Lindgren K, Sarna S, Hurri H. A Randomized Trial of Combined Manipulation, Stabilizing Exercises, and Physician Consultation Compared to Physician Consultation Alone for Chronic Low Back Pain. Spine 2003; 28: 2185-91.