Ask A Physical Therapist: What Is Manual Therapy | Maven Stories

Aches and pains are all too common for those that live an active lifestyle. But living with chronic pain may present a barrier to further activity. Injuries may result in neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, back pain, and even knee pain. Living with chronic pain may interfere with a person's quality of life. 

Pain may be a result of a medical issue from surgery or a physical injury such as a sprain or strain.  Experiencing constant pain may affect a person's mental health by disrupting their daily routine, sleep, and mood.  

It is important to treat your body with the proper movements to decrease the risk of future pain and injury. Manual therapy is a hands-on form of physical therapy that is a great option for those seeking relief from chronic pain and those recovering from injuries and surgeries. 


What Is Manual Therapy in Physical Therapy?

Manual physical therapy targets soft tissue, joint inflammation, and pain points to alleviate discomfort. It is often used to assess, diagnose and treat a variety of symptoms and conditions. 

Physical therapists target the soft tissues and joints and then apply pressure to promote recovery and relieve pain. Often combined with therapeutic exercise to decrease the pain, and improve strength, balance, and function, it leads to a faster recovery.


Manual Therapy Techniques

There are several manual techniques for different injuries and conditions. Techniques include soft tissue massage, trigger point release, active release technique, joint mobilization, joint traction, passive range of stretching, lymphatic drainage, and more. Physical therapists often utilize a variety of these soft tissue and joint manual techniques to help relieve pain, improve joint mobility and muscle flexibility, improve muscle activation and neuromuscular control, and thus improve function.


Soft Tissue Massage

Muscles, tendons, and ligaments are all soft tissues of the body that are prone to acute and chronic injury. These injuries result in pain, and loss of mobility, strength, and function. Physical therapists apply pressure to loosen restrictions, release trigger points, and restore proper length and tension of soft tissues. 


Joint Manipulation

Joints are the connective link between bones in the body. Unfortunately, joint injuries may also affect the muscles. As a result, an individual may experience muscle aches, tenderness, or bruising. In joint mobilization techniques, variations in force and direction can help improve the range of motion of a joint, improve the mobility of the joint capsule that surrounds the joint, and modulate pain related to injury/pathology.


Manual Therapy Benefits

Manual therapy reduces pain by releasing tight muscles, restoring movement, and reducing inflammation. This can help with tissue healing by improving blood flow to the area and facilitating tissue repair and remodeling. It’s also customizable to unique needs since there are many techniques.  


Introducing manual therapy into a person’s life can help ease some of the pains, but also help increase performance. Improving the activation of muscles and joint function may allow for better, more controlled movements. Manual therapy relieves pain to be able to return to usual life activities.


Final Thoughts

Manual therapy has benefits beyond the musculoskeletal system. It benefits the nervous system as well as the lymphatic system. When choosing a manual therapist to assist with your recovery, it is important to consider the training and skill level of your therapist. 


At Maven PT & Performance, your skilled physical therapist will incorporate manual therapy as part of your care plan where appropriate to promote recovery and reduce pain. Reach out to our concierge to book an appointment with our physical therapy specialists in Santa Monica.