Manual therapy is the use of a physical therapist’s hands to relieve pain and restore mobility. While this might sound like a massage, manual therapy includes kneading and manipulating soft tissue such as muscles to increase circulation, reduce scar tissue, and relax muscles to reduce pain.
Manual therapy can also include joint mobilization and manipulation, where the physical therapist uses measured movements at different speeds and forces to move bones and joints. This action loosens tight tissue around joints and helps with flexibility, mobility, and pain. When used in conjunction with an individualized exercise program, manual therapy can help restore function in the treated area.
Does Manual Therapy Hurt?
Manual therapy doesn’t have to hurt, although there can be some discomfort since physical therapists are actively manipulating a painful or tight area.
Before beginning manual therapy, a physical therapist will have a consultation with you to understand your unique condition and baseline your current range of motion, strength, and flexibility. Physical therapists will modify the amount of force they use depending on the injury and if the pain is chronic, acute, or post-surgical. After treatment, you may experience some soreness for a day or two, but usually, you'll see an immediate increase in your range of motion and experience reduced pain levels.