Manual therapy is hands-on medical treatment that uses skilled hand movements to help you manage pain, address musculoskeletal issues, reduce soft tissue swelling, or increase mobility. It is a subspecialty of physical therapy. The aim of manual therapy is to decrease pain, loosen stiff points, and increase range of motion, depending on your specific issue. This manually applied therapy treatment is an extremely effective type of physical therapy.
If you want to know if you’re a candidate for manual therapy, contact our office to schedule a free evaluation and consultation:
How does manual therapy work?
Also called manipulative therapy, manual therapy is a type of physical therapy practice used to treat pain, disability, and increase mobility. Your physical therapist will use their hands to provide relief from pain, put tailored pressure on specific muscles, reduce muscle tension, or assist in realigning joints.
Physical therapists use a series of learned, skilled hand movements with varying pressure on your joints, muscles, and soft tissue.
Some of the most common procedures include:
- Soft tissue massage
- Manual traction
- Deep tissue massage
- Joint mobilization or manipulation
- Trigger point release
When do I need manipulative therapy?
Any joint, muscle, or tissue issue can benefit from manual therapy. It is most commonly used to relieve back pain or specific joint pain but can be beneficial when used on any part of the body. It is beneficial in decreasing your back pain and increasing mobility.
Manual therapy may be a good choice for you if you are experiencing any of the following issues:
- Back pain
- ‘Thrown out’ back
- Joint pain
- Knee pain
- Neck pain or injury such as whiplash
- Shoulder pain
- Limited range of motion
- Soft tissue swelling
- Muscle inflamation
- Jaw inflamation
- Sports injuries
- Motor vehicle accident injuries
- Stiff or tight muscles
How is manual therapy different from massage therapy?
Manual therapy is different than massage therapy because it uses hands-on techniques to actively treat specific muscle and joint problems and determine if the pain is related to other physical problems. On the other hand, massage therapy simply helps reduce overall muscle tension and promotes relaxation. Basically, manual therapy is a targeted practice with the goal of addressing a certain issue or a specific area of pain. Massage therapy typically doesn’t focus on treating a problem but instead relieves general muscle stress. Furthermore, manual therapy is conducted by a highly trained physical therapist that has learned the techniques to treat your specific injury or issue. This is important because the person giving you manual therapy will have extended knowledge of the complete muscular system.
Some of the specific ways manual therapy differs from massage therapy include: It is used for overall musculoskeletal assessment. Manual therapy can be used to determine if muscle tension or pain is related to other more serious issues. Physical therapists may use manual therapy during your initial assessment to check for deeper issues around, say, a sore knee or stiff back.
It increases joint movement and mobility. While both manual therapy and massage reduce tension in muscle tissue, manual therapy has more targeted outcomes. It helps with joint mobilization and decreases joint movement restrictions. It also increases overall mobility in a specific area.
It can boost neuromuscular reflexes. Joint paint or injury can lead to issues with basic reflexes. During manual therapy, physical therapists use targeted hand motions on muscle tissue to increase overall reflexes or stop abnormal reflexes.
What does insurance cover?
Many public and private insurance companies will cover manipulative therapy but only under specific circumstances. It is highly important to make sure your healthcare provider recommends manual therapy as part of your medical treatment in order to get your insurance provider to cover your manual therapy sessions. Your healthcare provider would need to recommend it as an important part of your medical health. Manual therapy is covered by insurance when it is part of your overall physical therapy treatment.