Manual therapy is a hands-on technique physical therapists use to:
- Improve tissue extensibility
- Improve range of motion in muscles and joints
- Manipulate soft tissue and joints
- Promote relaxation
- Improve muscle function
- Stabilize joints
- Control pain
- Reduce swelling and inflammation
Some of the manual therapy techniques we use in our Edmonton and St. Albert clinics are:
Joint mobilization or manipulation
Here, being manipulated is a good thing. Joint manipulation and mobilization helps restore your joint movements, which allows your bones to move more freely. This technique works by inducing a relaxing effect on your nervous system—your physiotherapist is not realigning your joints or putting them back in place.
Joint manipulation often treats acute neck and low back pain. Your physiotherapist will quickly apply force to your joint and you will feel or hear it “crack” or “pop”. Joint manipulation can also be used to treat a sprained ankle. Your physio
therapist may “crack” your joint or will apply a posterior glide to your ankle as you move your joint.
Soft tissue techniques
Your physiotherapist will use manual therapy techniques on your soft tissue, like your muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. This treatment has a relaxing effect on the affected area, which will help decrease your pain and improve your range of motion.
There are many theories as to how this treatment work for certain: however, many physiotherapists believe this technique works through a neurological mechanism (rather than by breaking down scar tissue).
Instrument assisted soft tissue techniques
Although most manual therapy techniques are literally hands-on, this technique uses instruments to treat your soft tissue. The most common examples are cupping therapy—placing cups on the skin to create suction and increase blood flow to the area —and the Graston technique—using stainless steel tools to perform muscle mobilization.