What The Heck Is Manual Therapy?

So you arrive to your first physical therapy appointment expecting to receive hot packs, ultrasound and instructions on how to complete a series of exercises. You think to yourself, "Dude, I have heating pads and ice at home. Is this really how I have to spend my next 6 weeks?"

While these modalities are good in many instances, it often lends to basic treatment of symptoms and ignores root dysfunction. However, it is not enough to manage pain, only. Physical Therapy Elite focuses on “cause and effect” and will work to restore function from a different perspective. In other words, we are interested in why tissue isn't functioning properly. While we agree exercise, strength and retraining movement patterns is critical, it is not the sole driving mode of recovery. Therapeutic exercise is most effective when it is a compliment to highly skilled manual therapy.


So Let’s Take You Through It:


Before designing a treatment program, the team at Physical Therapy Elite will first assess joint alignment and mobility; muscle length, strength and balance; and the movement coordination of any injured joints and muscles in functional patterns. In short, we want to see how your injury or condition has impacted how you should move and work, and determine how best to return your joints and soft tissue to optimal function.


Two key components of your manual physical therapy treatment will involve mobilization and manipulation - skilled, passive movements to joints and their associated soft tissue structures. Other hands-on techniques may also be used, such as massage, stretching, deep pressure and nerve mobilization. In addition, there are several therapeutic techniques designed to improve movement patterns, including neuromuscular re-education, motor control training and core stabilization training. These techniques require advanced training and education that can only be provided by a specially trained physical therapist.

Some Of The Manual Therapy Techniques We Use:

Soft Tissue Mobilization

It is important to recognize the role of muscles and their attachments around the joints. Muscle tension can often decrease once joint motion is restored, but many times the spasm will continue to be present. In such cases, muscle tension should be addressed or the joint dysfunction may return. The goal of soft tissue mobilization is to break up inelastic or fibrous muscle tissue (called 'myofascial adhesions') such as scar tissue from a running injury, move tissue fluids, and relax muscle tension. We will localize the area of greatest tissue restriction through layer-by-layer assessment. Once identified, these restrictions can be mobilized with a wide variety of techniques. These techniques often involve placing a traction force on the tight area with an attempt to restore normal texture to tissue and reduce associated pain.


Joint Mobilization

Patients often get diagnosed with a pulled muscle and are instructed to treat it with rest, ice and massage. While these techniques feel good, the pain often returns because the muscle spasm is in response to a restricted joint. Joint mobilization involves loosening up the restricted joint and increasing its range of motion directly into the barrier of a joint. We will move the actual bone surfaces on each other in ways our patients cannot move the joint themselves. That may sound a little scary...but when applied by skilled hands, it feels amazing!


Summing It Up


The goal of manual physical therapy is the restoration of injured tissues to normal function. Once your pain has been reduced and joint mobility improved, it will be much easier for you to regain optimal and efficient movement patterns and strength and restore maximum function.

Curious about more of the manual therapy and advanced massage techniques that we use in order to not only treat pain, but to restore your body so that you are back on the mountain/trail/bike/chasing the kids? More info here or as always, feel free to give us a call!