Many patients who have never experienced physical therapy before think physical therapy is just exercise programs and hot and cold pack regimes. Although both of these can be utilized in a physical therapy treatment program, manual therapy is proven to reduce recovery times* and increase a patient’s range of motion and strength.
Manual therapy is the use of a physical therapist’s hands to relieve pain and restore mobility. Manual therapy includes kneading and manipulating soft tissue such as muscles—which can increase circulation, reduce scar tissue and relax muscles—ultimately helping to reduce pain. Manual therapy can also include joint mobilization and manipulation, where the physical therapist uses measured movements at different speeds and forces to move bones and joints. This loosens tight tissue around joints and helps with flexibility, mobility, and pain. Manual therapy is typically used in conjunction with an individualized exercise program to restore function in the treated area.
Manual therapy doesn’t have to hurt, although there is often some discomfort inherent in the process since physical therapists are actively manipulating a painful or tight area. Before beginning manual therapy, physical therapists will have a consultation with the patient to understand their unique condition and baseline their current range of motion, strength and flexibility. Physical therapists will modify the amount of force they use depending on the injury and if the pain is chronic, acute, or post-surgical. After treatment, patients may experience some soreness for a day or two, but usually report an immediate increase in range of motion and reduced pain levels.
Manual therapy may sound like a massage; however, while a massage aims to relieve tension in general, manual therapy is a therapeutic treatment for a specific condition performed by a certified physical therapist who has an intricate knowledge of the human body. Exercise isn’t a replacement for manual therapy either. While exercise is a valuable part of physical therapy, studies have shown* that the use of manual therapy in addition to exercise is more effective than either treatment on its own.
Sounds great, but does it work for me?
Any painful or stiff joint can be treated with manual therapy. There are no limitations on the joints that can be treated and manual therapy can be used to treat your spine, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle.
At Therapydia, we work with every patient to customize a treatment program and use manual therapy, along with other physical therapy techniques, to help patients recover for the long run. Feeling pain? Contact us and learn how we can help you return to your favorite activities.
*Manual Therapy Studies:
1. 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.
2. 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.