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Benefits of Manual Physical Therapy in Reducing Pain and Improving Function

Manual Physical Therapy is a holistic approach to reducing pain and improving overall body function through physical touch. The theory behind manual therapy is based in neuroscience, with the physical touch providing a stimulus to the brain of the recipient. This, in turn, causes the brain to send downward signals in response to the stimulus. The purpose of manual therapy is to create an appropriate stimulus for restrictions in the body that allows the brain to send a signal that results in clearing or releasing the restriction.


Woman Undergoing Physical Therapy

More on the NeuroScience behind Manual Physical Therapy


The theory behind the neuroscience of manual physical therapy is based on the concept of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to reorganize itself and form new neural connections throughout life. This occurs in response to changes in the environment, sensory stimulation, and experiences.


In the context of manual physical therapy, the physical touch provides a stimulus to the sensory receptors in the skin, muscles, and joints, which sends a signal to the brain. This signal is processed by the brain, which responds by sending a signal back down to the affected area to create changes in the tissue. The changes in tissue can include increased blood flow, release of tension or adhesions, and improvements in joint mobility.


The neuroscience behind manual physical therapy also involves the concept of the pain gate theory. The pain gate theory suggests that non-painful input can override pain signals that are sent to the brain. This means that the physical touch provided by the therapist can help to reduce pain signals that are being sent to the brain, effectively "closing the gate" on pain.


Another aspect of the neuroscience of manual physical therapy involves the concept of proprioception. Proprioception refers to the body's ability to sense its own position and movement in space. The sensory receptors in the muscles, tendons, and joints play a crucial role in proprioception. By providing a stimulus to these receptors through manual therapy, the therapist can improve proprioception, leading to improved control and function.


Thus, physical touch provided by the therapist can create changes in the brain and body that lead to improvements in mobility, pain reduction, and overall function. By understanding these concepts, therapists can tailor their treatments to target specific areas of the body and achieve the desired outcomes for their patients.



Who Could Benefit from Manual Physical Therapy?


Manual physical therapy can benefit a wide range of people with different conditions and health concerns, with key benefits including reducing pain and increasing mobility. Generally, it is most beneficial for individuals who experience pain or functional limitations related to musculoskeletal conditions.


This form of therapy can be helpful for people who suffer from acute or chronic pain, muscle tension or stiffness, restricted mobility, postural imbalances, and neuromuscular dysfunction. It can also be helpful for individuals who have suffered from sports injuries or accidents, as well as those who have undergone surgery and need assistance in their recovery process.


Additionally, manual physical therapy can be beneficial for people with certain medical conditions such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and migraines. By releasing restrictions in the body, manual therapy can help to reduce inflammation and tension, leading to a reduction in pain. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with chronic pain conditions or injuries.



Although those populations either benefit the most or have the highest need for manual physical therapy, it is also suitable for individuals of all ages, from children to the elderly. Since one of the biggest primary benefits of manual physical therapy is improved mobility, anyone can benefit from it. By clearing restrictions in the body, manual therapy can help to improve the efficiency of motion, allowing for more options in the way the body can move. This can be particularly beneficial for athletes or individuals who engage in physical activity on a regular basis. By improving mobility, manual therapy can also help to reduce the risk of injuries related to restricted motion. It can be particularly beneficial for older adults who may have age-related mobility and balance issues, helping to maintain or improve their functional abilities and quality of life for longer.


Manual physical therapy can also help to improve overall body function. By facilitating a neuromuscular connection, manual therapy can help the brain become familiar with new ranges of motion, allowing it to utilize them efficiently. This can help to improve overall body function and control, reducing the risk of injuries and improving performance in physical activities.


What Does Treatment Look Like?


The treatment process for manual physical therapy is highly individualized and focused on the specific needs and goals of each patient. It typically involves several steps, starting with an initial evaluation and assessment of your condition, followed by the development of a customized treatment plan. The treatment plan is designed to address your specific needs and goals, with the aim of reducing pain, improving mobility, and enhancing overall function.


During your initial evaluation, your physical therapist will gather information about your medical history, current symptoms, and any relevant lifestyle factors. They will then perform a thorough physical examination to assess your posture, alignment, range of motion, strength, neuromuscular control, and motor control. Based on this information, your physical therapist will develop a treatment plan that may include a variety of manual physical therapy techniques.


Manual physical therapy techniques can include joint mobilization and manipulation, soft tissue mobilization, trigger point release, myofascial release, neural mobilization and visceral (organ) mobilization. These techniques involve hands-on manipulation of the affected area to reduce pain, improve mobility, and restore function.


The treatment process is typically ongoing, with you returning for regular appointments to monitor progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed. As your condition improves, the treatment plan may be modified to focus more on preventing future injuries and maintaining the gains made in therapy.


It is important to note that manual physical therapy is not a one-time fix. After clearing restrictions in the body, it is important to continue to work on controlling new range at home to continue to facilitate the body's connection to initiate motion from the core and help prevent injuries in the future. This may involve exercises or stretches prescribed by the therapist. These exercises allow you to continue their progress between treatment sessions.


Overall, manual physical therapy can be a powerful tool for reducing pain and improving overall body function. Whether you are an athlete or an individual with chronic pain, our manual physical therapy may be exactly what you are missing and needing in your wellness routine!


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