Manual Therapy vs. Movement Therapy

Movement Therapy

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What is manual therapy and movement therapy exactly? Do a quick google search on both terms and you’ll be misled that your next session will be some sort of dancing class and massage. Point is that both therapies don’t get the recognition they both deserve. I’ll get to the ins-and-outs below.


At first glance, it is easy to mistake manual therapy for a massage. However, there are significant differences between these two treatment methods. While a traditional massage is used to promote overall circulation, and relaxation – manual therapy, also known as manipulative therapy, is a physical treatment used to therapeutically assess and treat positional faults of the irritating tissues and joints. Joints and muscles that are restricted and lack mobility long term can result in discomfort, pain, altered function and posture, and decreased mobility. Manual therapy helps restore joints and muscles natural mobility, thereby relieving pain so you can resume performance.

Your physical therapist will use their hands to apply pressure on muscle tissue and/or manipulate joints often referred to as “hands-on” work and typically includes three types

  • Soft tissue mobilization
    • Pressure application to soft tissue of the body including muscles, ligaments and tendons. This pressure allows the muscles to relax, break up scar tissue adhesions, increase circulation and relieve pain temporarily.
  • Joint mobilization
    • Can either be pressure or oscillation of affected joints to relieve pain and improve joint function and mobility.
  • Joint manipulation
    • Involves a high velocity, low amplitude thrust by the physical therapist to affected joints to relieve pain and maximize joint function. This technique is introduced when joint mobilization is no longer effective.

There are several conditions that can be treated by 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
  • Fibromyalgia
  • 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.)


Movement therapy is a form of holistic strength training to correct muscle imbalances and build a strong body foundation which will increase longevity. Movement therapy’s purpose is to improve performance and prevent injuries before the occurrence (or from injuries getting worse). This kind of training works several muscles at once, forcing your body to work as a single unit, hence the term holistic strength training.

Aside from preventing injuries, movement therapy increases performance both in and out of the gym. Some movement therapy exercises include sprinting, jumping, pushing, climbing, lunging and squatting. Exercises that reflect how humans were meant to move and even better in our daily activities and in sports. For example, doing knee extensions rather than squats are more likely to help a person get off a couch. Contemporary research has shown that traditional body building exercises do not relate to everyday movement and thus causing more harm than good at times to your muscles.

Not only can movement therapy help with physical performance, it can also be more stimulating mentally, which has shown to enhance cognitive function. This is due to the stimulating, non boring nature of movement therapy which includes mobility and stability challenges, rather than the simple bicep curl in the gym. This cause the brain to adapt to new movement patterns.

Movement therapy really has no downside, but what happens if you’re going through an injury that debilitates you from participating in the first place? We always recommend that you consult with your doctor or a physiotherapist if safe to do so. Here at revibe, however, you will be able to get the benefits of both manual and movement therapy in one clinic. We use both types of treatments together to get the most of your physical function. Feel free to visit us to get you out of pain and moving at your full potential!

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Revibe Osteopathy

Osteopathy - Helping people on their fitness journey.

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