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We are always asked questions about joints, shoulders, knees, treatments, etc. Some of the questions we can answer but many are beyond a trainers scope of practice. In order to provide you with accurate information our friends over at Mountain Physical Therapy have agreed to help us out every other month with a Physical Therapy Corner in our newsletter.  This month we will be reviewing the terms “joint mobilization or manual physical therapy.”  What it is, what types of problems it’s been proven to help and how it can help you.

What is Joint Mobilization or Manual Physical Therapy?

Are you familiar with the term “Joint Mobilization or Manual Physical Therapy?”  Do you know how these techniques differ from the more common “Manipulation or Adjustment?”

Joint Mobilization is a hands-on treatment characterized by a repetitive passive, gentle movement of a specific joint.  Manipulation on the other hand, involves a high velocity, quick thrust movement. Both techniques are used for decreasing pain and increasing movement. So, what’s the difference?

Joint mobilization is less aggressive than manipulation and targets a specific joint more precisely. It is performed by applying small oscillatory-movements over a longer duration as opposed to a quick thrust.  Many patients describe this passive mobilization technique as a similar sensation to a deep tissue massage. Physical therapists can perform both mobilization and manipulative treatments, and choose the appropriate method based on the particular patient’s signs and symptoms.

Current research has shown mobilization to be more effective for neck pain than manipulation and equally effective for acute, localized low back pain. Sometimes back problems can send pain down the leg, and if pain is sent, or referred, below the knee, mobilizations have been shown to be the superior method of treatment. Likewise, with long-standing low back pain, mobilization has been found to be more effective followed by an appropriate core strengthening program.

Recent research has also found joint mobilization to be very helpful for dizziness.  Many patients who suffer from dizziness and balance problems have what is called cervicogenic dizziness. This is a condition where the upper neck joints are stiff and can result in intermittent dizziness. Symptoms include dizziness that lasts for minutes to hours, ringing in the ears, spinning, neck pain, and sometimes headaches and nausea. Symptoms come on from leaving the head still for prolonged periods or during head movements. This condition is caused by neck injury or arthritis in the neck.

Medical conditions that can cause generalized joint laxity, typically mobilization is preferred over manipulation.  These include pregnancy and Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Mobilization is also preferred in people with osteoporosis.

Manual Physical Therapists often achieve noticeable results in a short amount of time; reducing pain, restoring movement and enhancing a better quality of life.  Mobilization or Manual Therapy should always be followed by corrective programs to address why the pain started in the first place.  

Learn more about Manual Therapy or Mountain Physical Therapy Services.