A Hands-On Approach to Treatment: Manual Therapy for Effective Pain Relief

Manual Therapy Feb20th 2021

Did You Know You Could Benefit from Our Manual Therapy Services?

Manual therapy, also referred to as hands-on therapy, can be described as a method in which licensed physical therapists use targeted hand movements to place pressure on specific areas of a patient’s body.

Pressure is applied to the affected area(s) of the body, as well as any areas contributing to the patient’s pain. While there is a conflicted body of evidence supporting the successful outcomes of manual therapy, it remains a preferred method of treatment amongst patients and their health care professionals. Contact Austin Manual Therapy Associates to learn more.

Manual therapy, defined

As stated by Physiopedia, “Manual therapy has a long history within the profession of physical therapy and physical therapists have greatly contributed to the current diversity in manual therapy approaches and techniques. Mechanical explanations were historically used to explain the mechanisms by which manual therapy interventions worked, new research reveals intricate neurophysiologic mechanisms are also at play and the beneficial psychological effects of providing hands-on examination and intervention should not be ignored”

Essentially, in simpler terms, manual therapy is a hands-on approach to pain relief. Since there are many different methods and treatment techniques associated with manual therapy, there is not one singular way of defining what it is or what it can do.

However, we believe The International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists does a great job at describing the many different types of manual therapy techniques as follows: “Skilled hand movements intended to produce any or all of the following effects: improve tissue extensibility; increase range of motion of the joint complex; mobilize or manipulate soft tissues and joints; induce relaxation; change muscle function; modulate pain; and reduce soft tissue swelling, inflammation or movement restriction.”

Additionally, there are many different ways why someone may need manual therapy treatments, as well as many different benefits that patients can gain from such treatments. Physiopedia also states that “Treatment may include moving joints in specific directions and at different speeds to regain movement (joint mobilization and manipulation), muscle stretching, passive movements of the affected body part, or having the patient move the body part against the therapist’s resistance to improve muscle activation and timing. Selected specific soft tissue techniques may also be used to improve the mobility and function of tissue and muscles.”

Understanding manual therapy

The biomechanical and neurophysiological factors are often misunderstood, which is a large contributing factor to the conflicted body of evidence on this treatment method. Studies conducted on this method have proved it effective as a pain-management treatment option for numerous musculoskeletal disorders.

Manual therapy is complex in nature. It is not a simple set of techniques like some of the more straightforward musculoskeletal treatments.

In fact, in a study published by the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, it is stated that manual therapy is comprised of “specific and nonspecific factors related to the intervention, the patient, the provider, and the environment in which the intervention is provided.” The study also notes that there are other contextual factors that go into the make-up of a manual therapy treatment plan.

Benefits of manual therapy

One of the most vital elements of manual therapy is the mechanical force that physical therapists apply to the targeted areas of the body. Patients with specific musculoskeletal disorders have demonstrated significant improvement in their functional outcomes when receiving manual therapy in tandem with other conservative interventions.

The disorders researched by this study include:

  • Chronic and acute lower back pain.
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome.
  • Plantar fasciitis.

However, manual therapy has proven even more successful as a tool for pain relief than mechanical adjustment.

For example, spinal manipulative therapy – a specific form of manual therapy – was reported as being the most effective pain relief method, as compared to exercise or sham intervention.

Implementing manual therapy

It is true that physical therapists will rarely prescribe manual therapy as an isolated treatment option – but that does not take away the efficacy of the method.

Manual therapy is commonly partnered with exercise therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or another conservative method. Combining methods of treatment allows for better adherence and more successful long-term results for the patient.

Manual therapy is a low-risk pain-management treatment that has produced countless positive patient outcomes. If you are interested in learning more about manual therapy and how it will benefit you, contact Austin Manual Therapy Associates today!

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