Manual Therapy Techniques for Pain Relief

Manual therapy is a physical treatment primarily given to people recovering from injuries or seeking relief from chronic or persistent pain. Mainly, manual therapy is a structured approach that treats soft tissues, joint inflammation and pain. It also helps increase the range of motion, facilitate movement and improve the agility of joints. Manual therapy restores the form and function of bones and ligaments by using natural body movements. It is definitely suitable for people who are suffering from issues like:

  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • TMJ pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Back pain
  • Ankle pain

In manual therapy, physiotherapists use skilled hands-on techniques of varying speed, forcefulness, and distance in order to correct the positioning and movement of joints.  Manual therapy is performed repeatedly until a restricted joint is mobilized, and it also encourages the lengthening of spastic or shortened muscles.

Manual therapy includes a broad range of physical treatments used by physical therapists, massage therapists, osteopaths and chiropractors. Manual therapy does not require the usage of any devices or appliances and is just a physical treatment delivered with specialised hand movements. Manual therapy mainly targets the muscles and soft tissues and proves to be very effective in the elimination of chronic pain due to joint dysfunction, muscle spasm and muscle stiffness without exerting any side effects on patients.

Manual therapy can prove to be very significant in pain relief in numerous ways:

 1. Manual Therapy Techniques Improve Tissue Stability And Extensibility:

In manual therapy, physical therapists use repetitive passive movements such as rubbing, kneading or stripping of myofascial tissues to principally improve interstitial fluid dynamics of muscles and soft tissues. These movements result in improved tissue stability and extensibility and help patients to move their joints without feeling pain sensations.

2. Manual Therapy Increases Blood Flow And Circulation:

In manual therapy, therapists use their hands to apply pressure to stretch the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, creating negative space for the joints to ease back into place, release inflammation, and reduce and improve blood circulation. That’s why manual therapy proves to be really effective in pain relief, as it increases blood flow and circulation for healing and restores functional mobility. Manual therapy utilises various techniques, including joint mobilisation, muscle manipulation, and passive range of motion. 

Manual therapy is simply an approach to treat motion impairments that cause pain and decrease the range of motion. Joint-specific techniques are indicated when the motion impairment is caused by loss of normal joint motion as a result of reversible joint hypomobility.

3. Manual Therapy Reduces Muscle Tension:

Manual techniques such as massage, stretching, active release therapy, soft-tissue therapy, and ischemic compression techniques are used to release the muscle tension and further break down the knot. In general, manual physical therapy techniques employ different types of movement, which involve massage and soft tissue work that directly applies pressure to the muscles of the body. This pressure can help relax muscle tension, increase blood circulation, break up scar tissue, and can eventually ease pain in the soft tissues.

4. Manual Therapy Can Help The Nervous System Problems:

Manual therapeutic techniques also help people with neurological problems such as Parkinson’s by relaxing their weak muscles, which can significantly improve their motor control, balance, and coordination, effectively facilitating patients’ independence regarding their daily tasks and movements.

Different Types Of Manual Therapies:

Manual physical therapy includes specific techniques that are used to treat musculoskeletal pain and dysfunctionalities and can provide many benefits. Manual techniques simply provide patients with the better overall movement of their ligaments and joints and are of multiple types, including:

1. Integrative Muscle Therapy:

Integrative muscle therapy starts with a comprehensive assessment to understand the patient’s body as a whole. It is a type of treatment that involves the integration of different therapy techniques, including neuromuscular (deep tissue) massage, lymphatic massage, trigger point work etc. All of these movements help relieve muscle tension and spasms.

2. Myofascial Release Therapy:

Myofascial release therapy is a type of manual physical therapy that releases tightness and pain throughout the myofascial tissues. In this therapy, the healthcare providers locate trigger points, or knots, in your fascial tissues. Then, they gently apply pressure until they feel the tension is released.

3. Muscle Energy Techniques:

Muscle energy techniques effectively help improve musculoskeletal function by mobilising joints and stretching tight muscles to reduce pain and improve circulation and lymphatic flow. 

If one of your joints is stiff or not moving well, muscle energy therapy can significantly help that area of your body in order to move more smoothly. During the therapeutic procedure, your therapist will position you in a specific way and guide you to gently squeeze and relax specific muscles. This gentle isometric contraction uses the muscle’s energy to release the tension and lengthen the stiffened muscle. In this way, muscle energy techniques can make stretching more effective.


What are the most common types of manual physical therapy techniques?

The most common techniques of manual therapy generally include soft tissue mobilisation (massage),  passive range of motion, traction, joint mobilisation, and manipulation. Joint mobilisation and manipulation are two of the most widely preferred types of manual therapy techniques that physical therapists usually implement.

What kind of pain can manual therapy treat?

Manual physical therapy is a completely safe, highly effective treatment that can successfully treat a variety of painful conditions, including chronic back pain and spasms, muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, and problems with joint mobility and stiffness. The manual therapy techniques effectively help muscles to relax, increase blood circulation, and ease chronic pain in the soft tissues.

How long do manual therapies usually last?

Manual physical therapies are repetitive techniques that are given to patients until significant recovery is seen. Generally, soft tissues will take between six to eight weeks to heal properly. The therapy sessions usually last for 30 to 45 minutes. Moreover, the longevity of therapy sessions also depends on the type of movements physical therapists provide. They also track progress and keep a check on whether patients are making gains in range of function, motion, and strength to determine how long the treatment should continue.