Manual therapy is a set of treatments used by physical and occupational therapists, chiropractors, trainers, and physicians (Riley, Swanson, Brismée, & Sawyer, 2016). This approach utilizes physical exercises and techniques that target various types of pain and disabilities. Manual therapy can be described as a practice that employs multiple tactics based on manual force, including massage, mobilization, and manipulation. Notably, all methods use the directed physical force of the therapist to the patient’s body. For example, during the process of soft tissue mobilization, a physician utilizes deep pressure in order to relax muscles, decrease tension, and move the soft tissue and tissue fluids. This type of therapy can be used to treat muscle tension, scarred tissue, and reduced flexibility of musculature.
Another technique is joint mobilization or adjustment which can help patients with back pains and bad posture. For instance, by using this approach, therapists can target areas of the spine and help patients to relieve back pain with passive movements and pressure on the spinal region (Riley et al., 2016). The process involves slow movements of bone surfaces that cannot be performed by the patient independently. During each therapy session, therapists slowly increase the speed and range of movements and loosen the restricted joint for pain relief.
Massage is a part of manual therapy as well, as it also features tissue movement and manipulation. Here, pressure and properly directed movements can help individuals with a wide range of problems, including headaches, back and neck pains, stress, and anxiety (Field, 2014). Furthermore, pressure massage can help treat pain-related symptoms of different conditions such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis (Field, 2014). Massage can be used for various patients, but it has a number of possible limitations for individuals with high blood pressure and some blood disorders. Nevertheless, the scope of massage implementation is broad as it can be utilized for helping small children, adolescents, and adults with pain syndromes and stress.
Different techniques of manual therapy can be employed by a variety of practitioners, including manual therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, athletic trainers, and osteopaths. All specialists in this area must have a certified confirmation of their professional knowledge and skills to implement these practices in hospitals, private practices, and other organizations. In order to become a certified physical therapist, individuals have to complete specialized courses in order to gain the necessary practical and theoretical knowledge about people’s bodies. Moreover, one can receive a degree in physiotherapy and pursue a graduate level of education to gather more theoretical knowledge and learn advanced approaches to manual therapy. An orthopedic manual therapist, for example, can receive certification or pursue a more theory-based type of higher education. Certifications can usually be completed in a period from 1 to 3 years.
An example of successful treatment with manual therapy is presented in the case study by Poremba, Makubuya, and Muwonge (2018), who investigate the effects of orthopedic manual therapy on the patient with an inversion ankle sprain. The researchers found that this type of injury is common among athletes and could be treated with “balance and functional strength exercises” (Poremba et al., 2018, p. 2). Here, orthopedic manual therapy brought positive results to the patient such as increased mobility of the ankle, elimination of pain, and decreased swelling of the area. The authors noted that such a rehabilitation process was effective and non-demanding for the patient who was able to normalize his walking gait and reduce pain at the same time. This case study shows the effectiveness of manual therapy and reveals its benefits for patients.
Field, T. (2014). Massage therapy research review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 20(4), 224-229.
Poremba, A. V., Makubuya, T., & Muwonge, H. (2018). The effects of manual therapy and PRIMFIT unstable surface balance training on walking gait cycle post an acute grade 3 inversion ankle sprain: A case study. Sports Injuries and Medicine, 2018(1), 1-4.
Riley, S. P., Swanson, B., Brismée, J. M., & Sawyer, S. F. (2016). A systematic review of orthopaedic manual therapy randomized clinical trials quality. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 24(5), 241-252.