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Joint Mobilization – Manipulation: Definition, Uses & Treatment


What is Joint Mobilization/ Manipulation?

Joint mobilization/ manipulation is a broad term referring to manual stretching techniques that attempt to improve the function of a joint. Joint mobilization can be performed on stiff peripheral joints such as the hip or shoulder, and on spinal joints to improve mobility and reduce pain. Mobilization is comprised of an array of skilled passive movements to the joint complex that are applied at varying speeds and amplitudes. One goal of mobilization is to move the fluids in the joints. These techniques change the mobility of tissues surrounding the joint and should not cause pain when performed properly. 

Joint Manipulation Uses

Joint manipulation is used for similar reasons and is also effective at improving mobility.  Joint manipulation involves twisting the neck or back to the end of its normal range, then giving a sudden thrust. Manipulation often results in a pop or click, which is the result of the release of pressure in the joint, similar to cracking one’s knuckles. Manipulation is particularly difficult to perform if the patient has severe muscle spasms or is anxious. Under these circumstances, pain or injury may be worsened by this procedure as the patient is unable to control the movement, or to stop it once it’s started, and tight muscles may be torn.

Who Uses Joint Mobilization/ Manipulation?

Joint mobilization/ manipulation is often performed by physical therapist, but also used by chiropractors, athletic trainers, occupational therapists and osteopathic physicians.

Treatment Using Joint Mobilization/ Manipulation

Treatment with joint mobilization and manipulation techniques can increase the range of motion and reduce pain in a joint in a short period of time. Sometimes these treatments have a lasting effect, but it is often temporary.

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