The Importance of Manual Therapy in Physical Therapy

There is no cookie cutter approach to treating patients. An individual treatment plan must be developed for each patient, their injury and their specific goals. Manual therapy is often part of that plan. Manual therapy is a physical treatment primarily used to treat musculoskeletal pain and disability.

At ARC Physical Therapy+, we offer multiple forms of manual therapy techniques including:

  • Strain and Counterstrain
  • Joint Mobilization
  • Soft Tissue Mobilization
  • Muscle Energy Technique (MET)
  • Rapid Release
  • Spinal Manipulation Therapy
  • Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM)

“Manual therapy is important as many patients often need hands on facilitation of muscle lengthening or strengthening, improved joint motion or spinal motion in order to fully heal,” Kimberly Sumner, Partner at ARC Physical Therapy+, shared.

“Additionally, there is power in actually touching a patient to learn where their specific area of pain is located. This helps develop trust in that we are treating the correct area and promotes compliance with exercises, and more.”

Let’s take a look at each technique and what they entail.

Strain and Counterstrain

Strain Counterstrain uses passive body positioning of hypertonic (spasmed) muscles and dysfunctional joints toward positions of comfort or tissue ease that compress or shorten the offending muscle.

This allows the joint influenced by the now relaxed muscle to function optimally increasing its range of motion and easing muscle and joint pain. Strain Counterstrain is an effective and gentle technique because its action for treatment moves the patient’s body away from the painful, restricted directions of motion.

Joint Mobilization

Joint mobilization is a skilled manual therapy technique aimed at improving joint range of motion and reducing pain.

The therapist gently coaxes joint motion by passive movement within or to the limit of a joint’s normal range of motion. The therapist’s movement of the joint is very precise and is limited by the amount of joint play, which may be less than 1/8th of an inch.

Joint mobilization works great for shoulder pain and stiffness, such as with frozen shoulder or tendonitis, spine pain and stiffness, stiff ankles that have been immobilized in a boot, and many others.

Soft Tissue Mobilization

Soft tissue mobilization is a physical therapy treatment that increases blood flow to promote healthy soft tissues (muscles, tendons, etc.), and eliminates or reduces unwanted scar tissue that may be causing pain or movement restrictions.

Muscle Energy Technique

Muscle Energy Technique (MET) uses a muscle’s own energy in the form of gentle isometric contractions to relax the muscles via autogenic or reciprocal inhibition and lengthen the muscle. MET is an active technique in which the patient is also an active participant.

Rapid Release

Rapid Release can be used almost anywhere on the body. With five different surfaces, the Rapid Release tool can treat smaller trigger points such as in between fingers or bigger muscle groups like the back or shoulder.

“I personally like to use Rapid Release on the back, shoulder and hamstrings,” Danielle Hass, Physical Therapist, said.

“Shoulders tend to tighten up when injured and we have to do a lot of manual stretching, so Rapid Release target vibrations can be a really good complement to manual therapy. With the back, there are so many muscles that it can be hard to get them to relax. It can also be great to help with tight hamstrings before stretching to alleviate lower back pain.”

Spinal Manipulation Therapy (SMT)

Spinal Manipulation Therapy (SMT) is a technique that treats back pain, neck pain and other musculoskeletal conditions via the application of assisted movement to the spinal joints, with the idea being that such treatment of dysfunctional areas in the spine can restore the spine’s structural integrity, reduce pain, and initiate the body’s natural healing processes. 

Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM)

IASTM is applied using instruments that are usually made of stainless steel with beveled edges and contours that can conform to different body anatomical locations and allows for deeper penetration. It is used for the detection and treatment of soft tissue disorders.

Learn More About Manual Therapy

“At ARC Physical Therapy+, we prioritize providing one-on-one time with every single patient at each visit,” Kimberly shared.

“There may be times they are performing exercises along-side another patient. But in order to progress each patient along their individual plan they need some one-on-one time with the therapist each visit. Manual therapy is a tool to get patients moving in the right direction that should then be removed as part of the treatment as they improve and become more independent.”

If you’re interested in learning more about our services, including manual therapy, contact your local ARC Physical Therapy+ clinic or call us at 844-755-4272(4ARC).

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