What Are Manipulative Therapies and Can They Help You?

If you’re suffering from joint or muscle discomfort, you may want to consider manipulative therapy. Manipulative therapy, also known as manual therapy, can be used to treat chronic pain and stiffness. Hands-on techniques are employed by a trained practitioner to restore the range of motion and improve physical function. The type of manipulative therapy that may be effective for you depends on your specific condition or injury. Manual therapies fall under two types: chiropractic and osteopathic.

Chiropractic Manipulation

Chiropractic manipulation is most often used to realign joints and restore them to their regular range of motion. It can also be used to relieve pressure on spinal nerves and alleviate muscle spasms. Chiropractic manipulation is quite common in the treatment of neck and back pain.

A practitioner of chiropractic manipulation can use either a high-velocity or low-velocity technique. With high velocity, the therapist applies a quick thrust to a specific vertebra. With low velocity, the therapist slowly pushes, pulls, and stretches the problem area. Both techniques are meant to address joints that are moving irregularly and restore a normal range of motion.

Osteopathic Manipulation

Osteopathic manipulation is used to treat muscles and soft tissues that are causing pain. There are several different techniques that fall under the osteopathic umbrella.

  • The muscle energy technique is used to lengthen a shortened muscle. It requires the patient to move against a counterforce, usually, the therapist’s hand, until the muscle is stretched out to his or her satisfaction.

  • The strain/counter strain technique can be effective in the treatment of muscle spasms. Holding a specific position for 90 seconds causes tissue to slacken and the spasm to relax.  

  • The soft tissue release technique targets a precise area of tightness in a muscle. The therapist first uses pressure on the muscle and then brings it into a comfortable stretch to release tension.

  • The thrust technique requires a quick, forceful movement to restore mobility to a joint. It results in the same popping sound you hear when you crack your knuckles.

Advancements in Manipulative Therapy

Manual therapies have improved over the years as chiropractic equipment has advanced. Specialized tables allow therapists to isolate and treat problem areas while keeping other parts of the body relaxed and supported. Adjustment instruments measure spinal motion, helping practitioners decide on the best course of action. Technology such as lasers and shock waves can be combined with manipulative therapies for even better results.

Manipulation techniques are popular with health practitioners and patients because they often provide relief. If you’re ready to treat your chronic pain, a professional can help you explore your options.