What is Manual Therapy?

Manual Therapy is a specialized form of “hands on” physical therapy where the fascia (connective tissue), muscles, and joints are gently palpated and manipulated to decrease pain and restore normal movement. Impaired joint movement may be a result of muscle spasm, abnormal muscle tension (guarding), joint restrictions, poor movement patterns, or muscle weakness.  Manual therapy can be very effective in the treatment of a variety of orthopedic conditions including sports injuries, back and neck pain, and even with chronic pain situations.

The human body must be considered as “one functional unit” where optimal health depends upon the integration of structure and function. We need to realize the importance of how different joints work together in concert to produce smooth, efficient, pain free movement. Since movement restrictions of the fascia, muscles, or joints are most often the basis for musculoskeletal pain (muscle and joint pain), treatment of the most restricted area first would facilitate the biggest changes in function.

For example, when evaluating a client for shoulder pain,  you must consider not only the shoulder joint itself,  but the cervical spine (neck), rib cage, thoracic spine (middle back), and lumbar spine (lower back) as they all exhibit direct influences on the function of the shoulder.

Once the body is free of major movement restrictions, we must develop “new” movement patterns to the correct the old compensatory patterns. In essence, we need to change the way the body moves, create “new memories” and then reinforce correct movement patterns with exercise. For additional information, see Treatment Philosophies.

~Ed Deboo, PT

Physical Therapy, Bellingham, WA