Manual Therapy Techniques Explained

Manual Therapy Techniques Explained

You may be experiencing back or neck pain that is affecting your quality of life. Perhaps it’s from a car accident, a sports injury, or a work-related injury. Maybe it’s from a birth defect or a common result of aging. Regardless, something should be done to return you to a pain-free life.

Most people automatically visit their family doctor in times of pain. A physician will most likely treat the pain with prescription medication, which come with potentially harmful side effects and may be addictive. 

Instead, it’s possible to receive help for back pain, neck aches, sciatica pain, frozen shoulder, and so much more without experiencing the drawbacks of medication. Your chiropractor can perform numerous treatments, including manual therapy. 

Chiropractors use this hands-on method of treatment to ease pain and tension for a variety of issues to help patients return to their normal day-to-day living. Read on to learn more about manual therapy, including specific manual therapy techniques and the types of manual therapy movement.

What Is Manual Therapy?

According to the book Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, “A consensus study of US chiropractors defined manual therapy as ‘procedures by which the hands directly contact the body to treat the articulations and/or soft tissues.’

In general, manual therapy does not use machines or devices, but instead involves hands-on movements that produce any or all of the following results:

  • Improve tissue stability or extensibility
  • Increase range of motion
  • Mobilize soft tissues and joints
  • Encourage relaxation
  • Change muscle function
  • Relieve pain
  • Reduce soft tissue swelling or restriction of movement

When a chiropractor uses manual therapy, they apply pressure with their hands on muscle tissue and maneuver the joints to reduce pain that can be caused by tension, muscle spasms, and joint dysfunction.

What Are the Types of Manual Therapy Movement? 

There are a wide variety of manual therapy techniques, all of which are meant to relax tense muscles and relieve restricted joints. All of these techniques for the most part rely on these three types of movement:

  1. Manipulation – A rapid force that may be direct or rotational which results in an audible popping noise. The sound is caused by the breakdown of gas bubbles that develop during joint cavitation.
  2. Mobilization – A slower, more regulated process of stretching soft tissues to improve flexibility.
  3. Massage – Kneading and rubbing of the soft tissues to redistribute fluid, relax muscles, increase circulation, break up scar tissue, reduce pain, and ease muscle tension.

Most people combine manipulation and mobilization when discussing manual therapy movements, because they fit so well together. They use calculated movements of various speeds from slow to fast. They use different forces from moderate to strong. They span various distances. All these movements are meant to help relieve stiff tissues, minimize joint pain, help with flexibility, and realign joints.

What Are the Types of Manual Therapy Techniques?

When you first arrive at the chiropractor, they will perform an assessment of your condition. They will check the nerve and blood supply in the area in question as well as looking at the bone and muscles. This will help them determine the type of therapy to proceed with, which may include one of the following types of manual therapy techniques:

  • Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT): IMT uses different manual therapy methods to locate blockages in body systems and work to clear those impairments to restore proper functioning.
  • Myofascial Release: This technique is used to loosen and release areas of fascia that are meant to glide smoothly over each other, but instead get stuck. Myofascial release uses gentle, consistent pressure to mobilize the fibrous connective tissues of fascia. It also can relax contracted muscles and increase blood and oxygen levels to the tissues.
  • Muscle Energy Techniques (MET): MET works on stiff joints. You’ll be asked to gently squeeze and relax specific muscle groups, which uses the muscle’s own energy to release tension and lengthen the muscle, also making stretching more effective.
  • Neural Tissue Tension Techniques: Sometimes nerves adhere to nearby structures in the body, sending a pain signal to your brain. Neural tissue tension techniques can release nerves that get stuck. 
  • Strain and Counter-Strain: Sometimes called positional release therapy, this method is used when you have a muscle spasm or your muscle is too tight, too short, overactive, or won’t release. Your chiropractor will arrange your body so that the muscle is in an optimal position, then he will guide you through a relaxation process which softens, relaxes, and lengthens the muscle in question.
  • Joint Mobilization: Your chiropractor may use joint mobilization to reduce pain and restore proper functioning of a joint. With this technique, passive movements are applied to the joint using various levels of pressure, speed, and amplitude. 
  • Passive and Active Assistive Range of Motion: If your range of motion becomes impaired due to pain, stiffness, scar tissue, adhesion, or some other reason, your chiropractor can perform passive or active assistive range of motion on it. They may glide your joint passively, where they perform the action for you, or actively, where you both do the movement together. This will reduce pain and increase the range of motion for the joint.
  • Manual Stretching: Stretching can improve your range of motion and flexibility. Your chiropractor may perform different stretching techniques such as static stretching, dynamic stretching, pre-contraction stretching, and other types of stretching.
  • High-Velocity, Low-Amplitude Thrusting: This more aggressive technique restores motion of joints and allows them to open and close more effectively by taking a joint to (but not beyond) its restrictive barrier.

Your chiropractor will evaluate your condition and make an assessment based on what they uncover. They will work with you over a period of time using the type of manual therapy that is customized for your unique situation.  To find out more, schedule a chiropractic appointment online or call us today.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.