Mobilization/ manipulation is a broad term referring to manual stretching techniques, performed by a physical therapist, in an attempt to improve the mobility and function of a joint. It is also used by chiropractors, athletic trainers, occupational therapists and osteopathic physicians.
How is Mobilization Used?
Mobilization is a manual therapy technique performed by a licensed physical therapist. Mobilization is comprised of a vast array of skilled passive movements to the joint complex that are applied at varying speeds and amplitudes. The goal of soft tissue mobilization is to move the fluids in the muscle tissues, break up inelastic or fibrous muscle tissue (myofascial adhesions), and relax muscle tension. This procedure is commonly applied to the musculature surrounding the problem area. Mobilization will identify the area of greatest tissue restriction through layer-by-layer assessment. Once identified, these restrictions can be mobilized in an attempt to reduce pain.
How is Manipulation Used?
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. Sometimes a manipulation has a lasting effect, but it is often temporary. 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.