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What is manual therapy?

Manual therapy is defined as utilizing skilled, specific hands-on techniques to treat injuries. Manual therapy is used to improve range of motion, reduce swelling, decrease pain, and improve overall function. Manual therapy is a term used to describe numerous styles of hands-on therapy; they include but are not limited to, massage, traction, passive range of motion (PROM), and joint mobilizations. For example, after sustaining a shoulder injury, it may be too painful for the individual to actively move their arm. The surrounding muscles are often guarded to protect from further injury and the muscles or tendons themselves may be injured, not allowing active movement. Numerous studies have shown that early intervention and movement speed healing. So an athletic trainer or physical therapist may use their hands to passively move the arm or mobilize the shoulder with small joint movements, this allows the individual to relax, decrease pain, start the healing process, and allow the joint to still be moved. This assists in injury recovery by allowing the shoulder to still have some motion without additional pain. If a joint remains inactive for too long, range of motion (ROM) can be lost which would increase pain and tightness and lengthens recovery time.

(This answer provided for NATA by Carrie K Erickson, LAT, ATC.)

Ms. Karena Wu
Physical Therapy
Manual therapy is the use of the hands to apply a passive force on bones or soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia/connective tissue). Physical therapists are skilled in manual therapies with advanced manual therapy courses.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.