What Is Manual Therapy?

Back Pain

Back and neck pain have become epidemic in our society. Billions of dollars are spent every year trying to find a solution to this problem. Everything from popping an aspirin, to taking major narcotic drugs to performing surgery is tried every day to solve the problem that is neck and back pain.

Sometimes new inventions are superior to the old. I certainly prefer my iPhone 6 to the old flip phone that I had only 10 years ago. But sometimes the best answer to a problem is millennia old.

Enter manual therapy.

We have records of different types of manual therapy being performed as much as 2500 years ago in Greece. In fact during the time of Hippocrates, manual therapy was a treatment used for many different maladies. There are also records of a type of Chinese MT called Tui na. Tui na is still performed today.

So what is modern manual therapy and who performs it.

Manual therapy is a clinical approach to treating pain and dysfunction involving the soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system. The soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system include the muscles, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels and nerves.

Manual therapy involves both a diagnostic element and a treating element and involves manipulation, mobilization and stretching of the various tissues involved to effect a positive change in the tissues. During a treatment the doctor will place his hand on some part of your body and feel for tightness, crepitus (crackling), knots, or stiffness in the soft tissues. Next he will perform a technique to change the texture of the soft tissue and improve the ability of the effected joints to move easily. This technique will usually involve some sort of pressure being applied to your soft tissues and some type of stretching of your joints. Manual therapy is generally very comfortable and pleasing to receive.

Problems that manual therapy can often alleviate include:

  1. Pain caused by moving any joint of the body
  2. Stiff muscles
  3. Soft tissue inflammation and congestion
  4. Stiff and painful joints
  5. Difficulty moving any part of the body
  6. Muscle pain

Manual therapy is also useful for inducing relaxation, which can have many health benefits since excessive stress has been implicated in most chronic illness.

So what modern day healthcare practitioner performs this type of therapy?

There are several professions which utilize manual therapy to one degree or another but chiropractors are the only current modern day profession that utilizes MT as its central treatment modality.

For a practitioner, what is important is to have a number of different techniques available to use and an understanding of what each technique can offer his patient and what effect it will have on the patient. The “trick,” if you will, is to match the correct technique or techniques to the patient in order to have the best outcome possible.

For the patient, what is important is to feel comfortable that your doctor has a good understanding of what he is doing and that he cares about you getting better. It is also important that the patient communicate with his/her doctor about their comfort level with any given technique because if you are not comfortable having a technique performed on you, that technique is unlikely to have a beneficial effect.

The great thing about having multiple manual therapy techniques at a doctors finger tips is that the doctor can customize a treatment to the specific needs of the patient instead of just applying some generic technique to every patient and hoping that they will respond to it.

What was old is new again. If you experience back pain, neck pain or headaches; you should find a good chiropractor who can provide you with a quality manual therapy treatment. You will be happy that you did.