Manual therapy involves the use of the hands to induce change in body tissues. It encompasses a variety of treatment types, each focusing on the specific tissue – muscle, joint, or fascia, etc.
When muscle is targeted, manual therapy techniques work to awaken, relax, or stretch. Dry needling is an example of an effective treatment for muscle.
Therapists address joint restrictions with stretching as well as mobilizations and/or manipulations. These techniques take into account the unique mechanics of each joint as well as the direction in which the joint is having difficulty moving. The goal is pain relief and improvement in movement.
Beneath the skin, but overlying all of the parts of the body – bones, muscles, tendons, organs, etc – are layers of a fascinating and important web of connective tissue called fascia. The layers of fascia are connected in unique paths along the body. Fascia enables the body to move dynamically such as when we swing the arms and legs while walking. Fascia assists in our ability to stand up and to translate forces across the body such as from the legs to the back to the arms.
These sheets of fascia can become restricted as well. Manual therapy aimed at fascia works to restore the ability of the fascial layers to move over each other and enable the body to move freely. Treatments for fascia include fascial manipulation as well as instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization.
These are just a few of the areas addressed with manual therapy. Therapists also use their hands to treat the skin and scar tissue, nerves, viscera, and even the sutures of the skull.