Manual therapy is one of the main modalities of physical therapy. As the name suggests, this type of treatment is performed by a physical therapist using hands-on techniques to help strengthen and stretch different aspects of the body to reduce pain and increase range of motion.
In this page, we’re going to walk you through exactly how manual therapy works, what conditions this type of treatment is used for, and what the benefits are compared to other modalities. Think of this guide as your be-all-end-all for everything manual therapy related.
What Is Manual Therapy, Exactly?
Manual therapy actually describes a group of hands-on physical therapy treatments. These treatments are often used to treat stiff, painful joints by addressing the soft tissue and ligaments around the joint.
While the term “manual therapy” may sound painful, your physical therapist will work with you to make sure you are not experiencing any discomfort during the session. Some of the common types of manual therapy performed by a physical therapist include:
- Joint manipulation — This type of manual therapy targets the joint specifically to help improve range of motion and reduce stiffness and pain within the joint. This is particularly effective for shoulder and elbow pain.
- Joint mobilization — Similar to joint manipulation, joint mobilization helps improve range of motion with slow, repetitive movements in the joint to help loosen up any stiffness.
- Therapeutic stretching — This type of assisted stretching helps to deepen a stretch and really isolate the tight muscles in the body. Stretching helps to improve range of motion and posture, decrease pinched nerve pain, and relieve other pain and stiffness in the body.
- Trigger point therapy — Trigger points are places in the body that, when pressed, can refer pain to a distant part in the body. In some cases, people may be feeling pain and stiffness in one place in the body because an associated trigger point is compressed. Trigger point therapy is a technique used to relieve pain in the trigger point, thereby relieving pain in the referred area. An example of this is referred pain in your hip due to tight muscles in your lower back.
- Soft tissue manipulation — Soft tissue manipulation is a way to increase blood flow and stimulate healing in the soft tissue surrounding a tight or painful joint.
These types of therapies often work in conjunction with each other to help patients find the most relief from their conditions.
Conditions Treated With Manual Therapy
Because these manual therapy techniques target joints, muscles, soft tissue and ligaments/tendons, they can be used to help relieve the symptoms of many conditions, such as:
- Sprains and strains
- Frozen shoulder
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Tennis elbow
- Knee pain
- Low back pain
- Joint stiffness and immobility
- Post operative stiffness
All of these conditions directly impact the health of specific muscles and joints in the body. By using a combination of manual therapies, a physical therapist can target the root of the condition and help restore movement and mobility into that area.
Benefits of Manual Therapy
There are many benefits of manual therapy, especially if you choose to be proactive about your treatment before your symptoms become debilitating. Some of the benefits include:
- Increased range of motion
- Decreased pain and aches
- Improved muscle control
- Better joint mobility
- Reduced muscle spasms and muscle weakness
- Overall better strength and stability in the affected area
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of manual therapy is that it is proven to reduce the risk of surgery when a patient is proactive about treatment. The purpose of manual therapy isn’t just to relieve the current symptoms — it’s to help prevent future injury and pain from developing. That’s why it’s one of the most common techniques used among physical therapists.
How to Get Started
If you’re ready to get started with manual therapy treatment for your chronic pain, you don’t have to seek a doctor to get a referral for physical therapy. You can access a physical therapist directly by contacting our office or visiting our locations page to find a clinic near you. We typically see patients within 24 to 48 hours after their initial point of contact. The quicker you are to schedule an appointment, the better you’ll see results. Our team at Lattimore Physical Therapy is ready to help you find relief from all of your aches and pains.