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If you are experiencing increased pain and stiffening in any of your joints and muscles, manual therapy is often helpful. Patients seek out this type of therapy for a variety of issues. There are many different types of manual therapy that practitioners can be trained in and it’s the skill of the therapist to know which ones might be most beneficial for your type of injury. The use of manual therapy techniques help the body in numerous ways: they help to active and passive movement of the joints, improve tissue flexibility, induce relaxation, mobilize soft tissues and joints, modulate pain and reduce soft tissue swelling, inflammation or restriction; facilitating movement and improving function.
During manual therapy treatments there is a continuous cycle of assessment, treatment, re-assessment, and further treatment based on the patient’s response to the therapy provided. And a person’s response to manual therapy in many cases provides guidance to both patient and therapist about how the condition can be better cared for independently by the patient.
Manual therapy is the hands-on component of occupational therapy, but there are several different sub-categories within the practice of manual therapy. Each has its own benefits, depending on what the underlying problem is. Among the most widely used are:
Soft tissue mobilization, or massage, focuses on muscles, ligaments and tendons. Often if a patient hasn’t had a chance to use a set of muscles due to illness, or has been injured in that area, the tissues can become scarred, and robbed of the precious fluids that promote flexibility. Soft tissue massage focuses on limbering up these damaged areas, while promoting overall wellness.
At times, muscles work themselves into abnormal states, in which the muscle’s stretch reflex has difficulty relaxing itself. To treat this, the physical therapist and occupational therapist use several techniques to quiet the nervous system to lower the pain response and then allow greater soft tissue relaxation and joint mobilization.