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 tendon. 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.)