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Can Manual Therapy provide Sustainable Pain Relief?

Manual therapy is a term used to describe most techniques Chartered Physiotherapists do mainly with their hands. These are techniques physiotherapists learn at university and requires a lot of practice to perform correctly and effectively.

These include:

  • Joint mobilisation and manipulation techniques
  • Soft tissue, for example, muscle and fascia mobilisation techniques
  • Neural tissue mobilisation techniques

These techniques are often used in combination, depending on you your clinical assessment findings, preferences and the experience and skill of your physiotherapist.

There is a general perception that physiotherapy is all about hands-on treatment. However, this is not necessarily the case. Manual therapy is more likely to offer relief if a physical restriction of movement is associated with pain and a loss of function. The term ‘mechanical’ back pain, for example, is used to describe a condition where pain is experienced with a particular movement or when getting into a certain position and then eases when moving out of this position. Normally, the movement concerned is restricted in terms of how 'backpain-reliefmuch' movement is available and the quality or ‘ease’ of the movement.

In this situation, manual therapy can be useful to facilitate a greater range and quality of movement while at the same time reducing pain symptoms. There is a catch, though. As good as manual therapy can be, the effects in restoring pain-free movement have been found in research studies to be temporary. As a result, we need to look at manual therapy as a way of facilitating movement, function and behavioural change. Long-lasting therapeutic effects are much more likely to be achieved and maintained when manual therapy is combined with therapeutic exercises to help further ease pain symptoms, improve mobility, strength and function  – which is why physiotherapists keep harping on about doing your exercises!

Here at the clinic, we believe the foundation of effective treatment begins with a thorough assessment and diagnosis of the problem. Combining the most effective and evidence-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercises is the best approach to effective and sustainable pain relief.

By Simon Coghlan.

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