Other terms you might hear about are mobilization, manipulation, chiropractic adjustment, and osteopathic manipulation. And, essentially manipulation or mobilization is about increasing mobility in a joint or soft tissue such as fascia, muscles, tendons and the like. There are different forms of providers that can provide manipulative therapy. You also might hear what’s referred to as manual therapy. Obviously as chiropractors, that’s what we excel at. We are trained to mobilize joints and soft tissues. Osteopathic doctors, (Dos) are another form of providers that provide those services as do Physical Therapists and even massage therapists are going into more soft tissue or muscle therapy.
The Goal of Manipulation is Reducing Restriction
My own explanation of manipulation is that I want to reduce restrictions of movement. I approach the problem by trying to find a restriction of movement, whether it’s in the joint or soft tissue. The goal then becomes reducing the restriction by increasing the mobility and the function. Simply put, we want to reduce the pain.
So, we want to find something that’s stuck and get it moving to increase the function and reduce the discomfort. When things stop moving, they stop functioning as they should.
Manipulation isn’t indicative for all conditions. It’s very appropriate for some conditions like acute low back injuries and neck problems. But if you had advanced degenerative disc disease or cancer or some other serious disc issues, we’d want to avoid using that type of therapy.
Is Chiropractic Manipulation Painful?
With any type of manipulation, skilled professionals do it in a safe, controlled environment. In our clinic we use low force, high amplitude or quick techniques…just a little bit of motion in the joints that doesn’t require a lot of rotation.
Is Stretching the Same As Manipulation?
Manipulation should happen before stretching. Here’s an analogy that I use in my office quite often. If you have a rubber band with a knot in it, and you stretch it, you’re only going to tighten the knot. Over time, muscles can develop trigger points or adhesions. What we aim to do with manual soft tissue techniques is break down or reduce the adhesions…the knots in the rubber bands. From there, we can teach the patient how to stretch properly, in ways where they are not going to hurt themselves.
What we’re doing at the fascia level is reducing or breaking up that adhesion so the muscle functions properly and we can maintain it and manage it with stretching.
So, simply put, manipulation or mobilization is a manual therapy that chiropractors, physical therapists and different physicians use for certain indicative conditions. It’s important that we’re utilizing a specific modality or treatment for the correct condition. And it not only applies to joints but soft tissues as well. Manipulation is a safe, effective, efficient form of treatment and many patients respond well to it.