Training Wellness: Six Manual Therapies for Pain Management

Updated on August 12, 2019

People of all ages can suffer from pain conditions, whether it is back pain, neck pain, or other musculoskeletal disorders. For older people, aging is the main reason for developing body pain, and for others, it can happen from injuries, bad posture, accidents, and congenital disabilities. Manual therapies provide effective treatment of such pain conditions and injuries as evident from the various treatment, training, and wellness programs offered by Treatment Training Wellness, a health and wellness center. A certified physical therapist performs multiple techniques of skilled hand movements that trigger passive movements of joints and soft tissue, thereby healing the pain. The therapies consist of joint and soft tissue mobilization through manipulation of the affected body parts or specific localized massage. 

How does manual therapy work?

Manual therapy addresses the major areas of human health targeted at the psychological, neurophysiological, mechanical, and biochemical needs of the body. It consists of passive movement of the joints that allows stretching the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joint.  Manual therapy can aid in realigning scar tissues and breaking adhesions, which are both capable of preventing a range of motion.  Therapists recommend specific exercises for patients to support the improvements and maintain it. Manual therapies help to cure the pain of any area of the body that has undergone injuries, including the spinal cord. Research shows that the techniques of manual therapies can activate the endogenous opiate system of the body that makes people feel a natural high. At the psychological level, it enhances the confidence of patients about a positive outcome of the therapy. 

Who benefits from manual therapy?

People who experience painful joints during movements or suffer from stiff joints that hinder movements are ideal candidates for physical therapies. Manual therapies do not have any contraindications. But the therapist must take precautions to ensure that there are no adverse effects from some pre-existing conditions.   They must investigate to know about any disease that the patient may have including joint replacement, hemarthrosis, and muscle holding.

There are many different types of manual therapies, some of which we will discuss in this article.

1. Myotherapy

The philosophy of Myotherapy is founded on the principles of anatomy, biomechanics, and physiology. It is a kind of manual therapy that focuses on an analysis of the musculoskeletal system to define the treatment and rehabilitation procedure.  Myotherapy includes trigger point therapy and a broad range of manipulation techniques and soft tissue massage together with joint mobilization and joint energy techniques. Myotherapists use stretching techniques, prescribe exercises, give nutritional and postural advice, and provide education about heat and cold therapy. 

2. Chiropractic treatment

Chiropractic treatment is an alternative treatment procedure that focuses on the mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine.   When the spine loses its alignment, it puts pressure on the nerves that pass through it and causes pain to the body parts where the affected nerves terminate. Due to reduced blood flow to these parts, people might experience numbness and difficulty in movement. Such disorders affect the general health of people as the conditions disrupt healthy life. Spinal manipulation or adjustment of the spine is the most common chiropractic technique. Here the therapist applies controlled force to the spine at specific points by using the hands only to decrease pain and restore mobility. Chiropractic treatment is most useful for the treatment of lower back pain but also suitable for treating neck pain and other types of pain.

Since chiropractic treatment takes a holistic approach, the therapy can cure other diseases that patients may already have. 

3. Muscle energy techniques

Muscle energy techniques are designed in such a way that it expands shortened muscles and mobilizes restricted joints. The procedure consists of utilizing a voluntary contraction of the muscles of the patient against a carefully controlled counterforce that the therapist applies in a specific direction from a precise position. After allowing contraction for 3 to 5 seconds, the therapist takes the joint to its new barrier and makes the patient perform the muscle contraction again. The therapist might repeat the process 2-3 times. The technique is an effective procedure where the therapist does all the work. Muscle energy techniques do not stress the joint and well tolerated by patients.    

4. Soft tissue mobilization

Understanding the role of muscles and its attachments around the joint is very important.  On the restoration of the joint movement, there is a significant decrease in muscle tension, but most of the time, the spasm would persist. This procedure is most applicable to the musculature that surrounds the spine and involves rhythmic stretching and deep pressure. The therapist will assess the affected area by going through every layer of muscles to identify and isolate the area of greatest tissue restriction. Upon identification of the area of restriction, the therapist can use a variety of techniques to mobilize them. One of the methods is to place a traction force on the tight area in an attempt to reduce associated pain by restoring normal tissue texture. 

5. Thrust techniques

This technique of manual therapy makes use of slight pressure in quick repetition to a particular joint. The therapist will first identify malfunctioning joints that are moving symmetrically or incorrectly. In the next step, with the help of distinct rapid movements, they will engage the barrier of motion of the joint to restore natural motion. As a result, the affected joint gets the opportunity of opening and closing properly that leads to improved mobility and stability of the affected joint.  

6. Active release technique

Active release technique or ART is unique as it is the only soft tissue technique in which the muscle moves under the contact point, which in this case are the hands of the therapist.  The therapy aims specifically at healing and corrections of adhesions and scar tissue that happens due to overuse and cause injuries.  The therapist applies pressure in a specific direction, and the active movements of the patient break apart the dense scar tissue in the affected area.

Before you engage a manual therapist, check how much conversant and experienced they are in the preferred techniques. 

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