What is Manual Therapy?

Manual therapy is an umbrella term for a hands-on approach to managing neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Manual therapy aims to improve the range of motion, reduce pain and inflammation, assist in optimal tissue repair, and restore optimal movement and function. Skilled clinicians use various techniques on joints and soft tissues to achieve these goals.

stretches for shoulder
pushing with thumbs on back

What is Manual Therapy?

Clinicians use skilled treatment techniques aimed at optimizing mobility in the body. Treatment techniques include joint mobilization and manipulation, manual traction, soft tissue mobilization, muscle energy techniques, massage, and stretching.

What does it do?

  • Increases passive range of motion
  • Restores normal joint mobility
  • Facilitates functional movement
  • Modulates pain
  • Reduces inflammation/swelling
  • Increases circulation
  • Facilitates repair and tissue remodelling
  • Builds trust between client and therapist
  • Induces relaxation
  • Reduces adhesions from scars

Joint Mobilization/Manipulation

Physiotherapists use a hands-on approach to evaluate, diagnose, and treat joints. Joint mobilizations are slow, graded amplitude movements that twist, pull, or push bones and joints in a direction. These movements help loosen tight tissues around a joint, help with alignment, and reduce pain in the joint and surrounding tissues. Some skilled clinicians use joint manipulations, which are quick but small thrusts to provide pain relief and improved mobility. Often you may hear a “click” or “pop” with joint manipulation. Joint mobilizations and manipulations restore optimal motion within a joint.

Soft Tissue Mobilization

Various techniques include deep, transverse frictions, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, and scar massage. These techniques aim to break up tissue adhesions, promote circulation, and ease pain.


Kneading and therapeutically applying pressure to muscles to relax tension, ease pain, and promote circulation.

Trigger Point Release

Applies pressure to hyperirritable nodules in the muscles, referred to as “knots,” to release tension in the muscle.

Passive Stretching and Muscle Energy Techniques

Assisted stretching of muscles and tendons to increase flexibility and extensibility of those tissues. Therapists may use a “contract-relax” technique to help increase the extensibility even more.

Manual Traction

Manual therapy is a technique in which the therapist aims to create space within a joint and stretch the surrounding structures.

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Physiotherapists use these varieties of manual therapy techniques in conjunction with education and exercise to restore optimal motion and function and reduce pain.

If you have any further questions about manual therapy or any of our other services, contact Innovation Physical Therapy today. We’re here to help you Love Getting Better!