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Health and Wellness.

01 Oct

Ask A PT

Your Questions Answered

With Juliana Meeker, DPT

Ask a PT:  Manual Therapy


Dear Elite PT,

I keep hearing the term “manual therapy.” What is it? Is it the same thing as “physical therapy?” Who does it? What injuries or problems is it good for?

B. Jeansonne


What is Manual Therapy?

Manual therapy is a physical therapy method that utilizes hands-on techniques which includes but is not limited to manipulation and mobilization to the soft tissue and joints which helps to diagnose and treat the impairment. This treatment style can be used to reduce pain, increase range of motion, decrease muscle restrictions, decrease swelling or inflammation, assist the body in the healing process, and facilitate movement to improve function. That’s a whole lot of words, but manual therapy is really a large umbrella under which many specific hands-on techniques reside. Manual physical therapy generally involves two kinds of techniques: soft tissue work and joint mobilization and manipulation.

Soft Tissue

Muscles, nerves, and tendons are examples of soft tissues in the body. Often including massage techniques, soft tissue therapy involves applying pressure to soft tissues in order to relax muscle tension, break scar tissue, reduce inflammation, ease pain, or promote circulation.

Joint Mobilization/ Manipulation

Manual therapy also often includes joint mobilization and manipulation (techniques to stretch the joints) to reduce pain, improve range of motion and help the body return to regular functioning.

What’s the Difference?

Manual therapy is a subset of physical therapy. So while all manual therapy qualifies under the physical therapy umbrella, not all forms of physical therapy are included in what we call manual therapy. It is one subset of tools the therapist may use to help with improvement in your symptoms.

Why does it matter?

If you receive the appropriate therapy what difference does it make that you understand the difference between manual and physical therapy? At Elite Physical Therapy, we think you should fully understand the treatment you are receiving and why one treatment is recommended rather than another. We’re flattered when our patients trust our judgment regarding their physical therapy, but we take educating our patients seriously. When patients know why as well as how they are being treated, the outcome improves because knowledgeable patients tend to be more motivated and active in their recovery process.

Who does Manual Therapy?

Manual Therapy should be done by a licensed Physical Therapist. All Physical Therapists graduate school with at least an entry level ability to perform soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilizations and manipulations. To be considered a Certified Manual Therapist, one must receive additional educational training and receive additional certification in the skills. These credentials can only be given by educational institutions that have strict oversight from proper credentialing organizations.

Recently, I successfully completed my certification in Manual Therapy (MTC) through Evidence in Motion. It was a 15-month long program in which I was able to study and learn more Evidenced Based Practice, hands on skills and more specific mobilization and manipulation techniques to better serve all of my patients. I am excited to be able to offer these additional techniques to the patients at Elite. This certification is designed to advance my education and subsequent patient care outcomes through advanced clinical knowledge in orthopedics and manual handling skills. It also builds a foundation for me to begin preparation for my Orthopedic Board Certification.

What Injuries or Problems is Manual Therapy Helpful for?

Manual therapy is utilized for a wide variety or issues. Here is a partial list:

  • Neck Injuries/Neck Pain
  • Cervicogenic Headaches
  • TMJ Dysfunction
  • Thoracic spine/Mid-back Pain
  • Low Back Pain
  • Shoulder Pain & Problems
  • Hand, wrist, or elbow problems
  • Hip Pain & Problems
  • Knee Pain & Problems
  • Ankle / Foot Pain & Problems
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Work Related Injuries
  • General Muscle Spasms & Tension

What does this mean for you?

With the additional training and techniques, we can offer our patients more knowledge about their issues, more skill to treat them, more techniques to provide a quicker recovery and over all better care and results! This is one of the reasons why we tell patients to give Elite Physical Therapy a try, even if you have not had success with physical therapy in the past. We do things quite differently here, combining the best of hands-on, manual therapy techniques with functional strength and stability activities for not only reducing pain, but restoring your body to healthy and efficient movement patterns. Every physical therapist here is skilled and knowledgeable, and every patient receives best in class care by people who really care.

Experience the difference that a hands-on approach to physical therapy can make at Elite Physical Therapy! For access to the full range of techniques you need to recover from injury or other health conditions, contact us today at 318.443.3311 to schedule an appointment with Elite Physical Therapy.

Juliana Meeker, DPT

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