Manual Therapy, also known as Manipulative Therapy, is a therapeutic technique often used in conjunction with other traditional therapeutic treatments. It is primarily used to provide pain relief for patients in a variety of settings. Osteopathy and Chiropractic both lay claim to utilizing this technique as a foundation of their practices. However, this technique is often used in Craniosacral Therapy practice today as well. The earliest known mention of Manual Therapy dates back to 400 BCE in Europe. While it is a multidisciplinary practice, most fields using this method are seeking to provide relief to patients with the use of minimal pharmaceutical or surgical interventions.

Craniosacral Therapy, a form of Manual Therapy utilizes three movement types to achieve pain relief; soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, and joint manipulation. The overall goal is to allow tense muscles to relax as well as freeing restricted joints to accomplish improved range of motion and pain relief. The three categories of movement types are “hands on” techniques.

Soft tissue mobilization works by applying pressure to the soft tissues throughout the body. The most common tissues of importance in Manual Therapy are muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Soft tissue mobilization is used to relax the muscles that have become tense for whatever reason. This tension often leads to a reduced range of motion and pain for the patient. Adhesions may develop internally as a result of a variety of stressors, including surgical. Adhesions are scar tissue within the body that can create range of motion and circulatory problems, soft tissue mobilization helps to break apart these adhesions.

Joint mobilization, the second form of Manual Therapy movements is utilized when the patient is experiencing decreased joint mobility or function. This decrease in function can lead to acute and chronic pain. If not treated a permanent reduction in range of motion and chronic pain may set in. The practitioner will apply sustained or rhythmic oscillating pressure to the joints of concern.

The third movement used among physical therapists in Manual Therapy is joint manipulation. This technique is what is commonly thought of in traditional chiropractic treatments. It is a high velocity and low amplitude thrust that is applied to the specific joint where the subluxation exists. The technique results in the traditional popping sound that has come to be associated with chiropractic adjustments. This popping is a result, as per one theory, is of gas being released from the joint space. Joint manipulation is typically used when joint mobilization is no longer an option for the patient due to a decrease in its efficacy. The benefits of this method are the same as with joint mobilization; to improve joint mobility and decrease pain.

Each field of medicine that uses Manual Therapy as a treatment for their patients are doing so with the primary goal being pain control. When the joints or muscles become restricted and unable to move properly several negative health outcomes may develop. Paint, discomfort, poor posture, altered function, and a decrease in mobility are just a few of the issues that may arise from this restriction. When Manual Therapy is applied to the affected joints or muscles the patient is able to experience improved movement and overall quality of life.

Manual Therapy should be sought as a legitimate method of treatment for conditions that result in acute or chronic pain. Fibromyalgia, migraines, temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, shoulder, knee, or hip pain, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and muscle spasms are just a small segment of the possible conditions that are able to be treated effectively with Manual Therapy.

A patient undergoing Manual Therapy should expect to give a detailed history of their health and current medical conditions / ailments. The practitioner will review this against a physical examination. They may then use a variety of diagnostic tests to locate the areas where Manual Therapy should be applied to achieve the greatest outcome. The practitioner will make adjustments by bringing the joint involved to the end of its range and applying a quick thrust. Manual Therapy is a hands-on technique that should be given serious consideration when seeking pain relief treatment methods.

Dr. Kaminsky, a NYC Chiropractor uses Craniosacral Therapy.