If you are looking for a specialty in the physical therapy field, you should consider manual physical therapy. In short, it is a type of physical therapy that is directly administered with the hands instead of a type of machine or other type of device. You will utilize your hands to apply pressure on various types of muscle tissue and to directly manipulate the joints. This PT specialty is highly advantageous to patients that experience spasms and tension within the muscles and dysfunction associated with the joints.

Physical Therapist

What is the Goal of Manual Physical Therapy?

The goal of manual physical therapy is to successfully restore mobility to joints that have stiffened and to reduce the amount of muscle tension that a patient experiences. In accomplishing these two goals, the patient’s mobility is optimized and they are able to move freely without the burden of pain.

What’s the Difference Between Traditional PT and Manual PT?

Traditional physical therapy places an emphasis on both managing and successfully treating the process of diseases that impact the joints and the muscles of the body. Manual physical therapy is a special type of physical therapy that focuses on the examination of tissue and other biomechanical components in order to identify and address the underlying cause of the disease process.

Is Manual Physical Therapy Effective?

Yes, manual physical therapy has been found to be highly effective in treating neck pain, joint disorders, muscle tension, and associated mobility issues. Those that experience pain and spasms in the back, the neck, and the shoulders seem to experience the most benefits from manual physical therapy. Additionally, those that suffer from body stiffness and mobility issues with the joints find that manual physical therapy is highly advantageous.

Is Manual Therapy Just Massage Therapy?

Many people mistakenly believe that those that specialize in physical therapy provide massage services. Then, there are those that believe that manual therapy is the same as massage therapy. The truth of the matter is, though, manual therapy and massage therapy are two different types of care. Manual physical therapy is the use of direct pressure and manipulation of various components of the body, not massage techniques.

Manual Physical Therapy

What Does a Manual Physical Therapist Do?

If you want to specialize in manual physical therapy, you will start by meeting and evaluating the patient. You will conduct an assessment of the blood supply of the impacted area and the nerves of the same area. You will also examine the bones and muscles. This will help you determine if the patient will benefit from your services or if the services that you provide will result in further complications to the patient. If beneficial, you will continue with certain types of manipulation. The following outlines the 5 most basic techniques and includes a brief explanation of each:

  1. Mobilization of the Soft Tissues – The goal of this particular technique is to break up myofascial adhesions in the patient. An example would be scar tissue that occurs as a result of an injury to the back. This technique helps in moving the fluid of the tissues and relaxing the associated muscles. It is often performed to the musculature area that is in the immediate location of the spine. You will perform rhythmic stretching and will apply deep levels of pressure. Traction force is placed on the area to restore normalcy as far as texture and to eliminate pain.
  2. Strain-Counterstrain – This technique places an emphasis on correcting abnormalities in the neuromuscular-based reflexes that cause problems with structure and posture. It helps to eliminate the complication of pain and tenderness of the tender points in the body. Mild stretches are performed through the process of an asymptomatic type of strain. Then, the body is slowly brought back to normal in an effort to successfully reset muscle tension back to what is considered to be “normal” levels.
  3. Mobilization of the Joints – Restricted joints often result in the development of muscle spasms which may prove to be quite painful for your patients. The mobilization of joints technique loosens the restricted joints then works to increase the overall level of range of motion by slowing increasing velocity and amplitude. This is typically a painless technique that aids in moving joints in a manner that is not possible for a patient to achieve on their own.
  4. Muscle Energy – This technique aids in mobilizing joints that are restricted and increasing the length of muscles that have been shortened for one reason or another. It is performed by using a voluntary muscle contraction against the force of a counterforce that is controlled from a certain position and in a certain direction. This is an active technique that involves both you and the patient. One of the best things about this technique is that it does not place undue stress on the joints of the patient.
  5. High Velocity Thrusting of Low Amplitude – This technique is beneficial in restoring the natural gliding motion associated with the joints. It is a relatively aggressive technique that moves a joint up to what is considered to be its restrictive barrier. No structural damage will occur and it is typically not painful for a patient as it does not move a joint past the anatomical-based limit of that joint. If successful, this technique will help restore the motion of a joint and help the patient is experiencing less pain.

What are the Benefits of Manual Therapy?

As a physical therapist who specializes in manual therapy, you will help your patients in numerous ways. The following outlines the most common benefits of manual therapy:

  1. Patients that experience pain within the body find that it is drastically reduced – and in some cases, completely eliminated – after receiving manual physical therapy.
  2. The mobility of the joints is immediately optimized and patients find that it is much easier to move than before the therapy session.
  3. The range of motion of the patient seems to improve instantly after having manual physical therapy performed.
  4. The quality of movements of the body is immediately noticed.
  5. If a patient suffers from muscle complications – such as tension, pain, and spasms – they will discover that manual physical therapy causes these issues to decrease rapidly.
  6. There are marked levels of improvement – in terms of flexibility.
  7. The dynamic balance of the patient is boosted significantly once they have engaged in manual physical therapy.
  8. Many patients suffer from neurophysiological complications. These include sensitivity and pain processing. If manual physical therapy techniques are used these effects diminish, over time.
  9. Motor control and motor recruitment processes of the body drastically improve after the utilization of manual techniques in physical therapy.
  10. The overall function of the patient is drastically improved through the means of the therapeutic touch that occurs during the process of manual physical therapy.

Why is Manual Therapy Highly Advised?

Manual physical therapy is a specialized form of therapy that integrates the utilization of therapeutic touch to relax tissues and muscles and promote the process of healing. It is a type of hands-on specialty approach that is designed to improve restrictions of the joints and soft tissues.

It is also beneficial in reducing and/or completely eliminating musculoskeletal pain.

The combination of the skilled movements of the hands and the passive-based movements of the joints work together to improve the patient’s range of motion, the mobility of their tissues, reduce swelling and inflammation, and all associated restrictions that have a negative impact on movement and the patient’s ability to engage in functional-based activities.

What are the 3 Paradigms for Manual Physical Therapy?

The 3 paradigms for manual physical therapy include the following:

  1. Physiological
  2. Biomechanical
  3. Psychological

It is believed that the physiological benefits of the manual therapy techniques will instantly provide a boost to the biomechanical aspects of the body. This – in turn – improves the patients comfort and their level of functionality.

As a result of the received benefits, manual physical therapy will also provide an instant boost to the psychological components of the patients. If you want to have a positive impact on patients, specializing in manual physical therapy allows you to do just that!

You will find that once your patients feel better physically, it will boost their mental health, too! The impact of manual therapy is highly beneficial to each patient you will work with during your career.

Join Us Today

If you are just starting out in your physical therapy career, currently considering specializing in a form of physical therapy, or simply want to have access to the tool, resources, and network that is necessary to optimize your career, we here at Colorado Physical Therapy Network encourage you to join us today! Our comprehensive network offers everything for every type of therapist! In having access to the best, you can provide the best to your patients and provide a boost to your career.

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