Comp Clues



By Jacob N. Thorp, MSPT - Manual Therapy Associates
| Date: 11/01/2001

As we move rapidly into the 21st century, I hold desperately to the fact that people are still being treated by people and as people. How can a health practitioner provide quality interventions if we do not place our hands on our clients. Manual therapy is a unique form of physical therapy that takes these principals in mind.  It is a type of care that makes our patients feel like they are being heard and validated in their complaints. We do use modalities and prescribe exercise as other therapists, but what makes us stand out is we spend a full hour assessing with our hands the biomechanical insufficiencies and other impairments causing the pain and discomfort.

What is a manual therapist  
As mentioned previously, a manual therapist is a physical therapist that has specialized in examining soft tissue and joint impairments such as myofascial restrictions, scar adhesions, and capsular tightening that often go undiagnosed. It is an art of assessing faulty mechanics of the spine and other joints. We have successful techniques that treat chronic headaches, rib pain, and herniated discs, to name a few. We are uniquely trained physical therapists who listen with our hands as well as our ears. We have received several years of training at an osteopathic university or other manual accredited institution.

Why manual therapy 
Quite simply, people want to be touched. Your patients want to know that you can find their pain. It builds great rapport with our clients when we can put our hands on them and reproduce the exact signs and symptoms that brought them to our office. They need to know that you care and are knowledgeable. There is something unique, if even a placebo effect, of making an assessment with our hands.

Second of all, manual therapy is a holistic type of therapy.  We examine and assess all parts of the body including physical, social, and emotional. A person’s pain can become so chronic in nature that it is as much of a routine as brushing their teeth. It can effect their social life by sheltering them inside because it hurts too much or they do not want to bother others. It can have adverse effects on their psyche, either through mind altering drugs or an irritation that consumes their thoughts. Manual therapists will address these issues and work in corroboration with the physicians on other interventions and referrals that may be helpful.

What kind of interventions can I expect from a manual therapist? 
Nothing quite as powerful as the human touch. Several treatments will be used depending on the nature of the impairment. Myofascial release is just as it sounds a release of the myofascial tissue. Our bodies are lined and held together by a touch connective tissue called fascia. This fascia weaves between our muscles, bones, and circulatory system. After surgery or a traumatic accident this fascia can become injured and, as with other injuries, it can form a scar.  Since fascia is woven throughout our body, a scar in our low back can lead to shoulder or neck problems. A manual therapist is trained to stretch this tissue out, thus “releasing” its binding properties and returning a person to normal function.

Muscle energy and joint mobilizations are processes of using your muscle’s energy, or strength, to mobilize poorly functioning joints.  Muscle energy is the non-manipulative way to correct poor joint movement. Joint mobilizations are characterized into five groups ranging from a gentle oscillation to a high velocity manipulation. They are used for pain relief and increasing a persons mobility. Both techniques are good for alleviating headaches, low back pain, rib or painful breathing problems, or other joints in the arms and legs that have lost motion.

Position release is a form of manual therapy that works our knots in muscles and helps a person relax. Once a tender point is found, the muscle is moved to maximal relaxation and this position is maintained for 90 seconds. After several points are “released” the affected body part is taken through the new motion. This technique works very well to break the chronic chain of pain often seen in people with long standing discomfort.

A technique similar to that of positional release is a trigger point therapy/release. Our bodies are full of trigger points that are located usually in the belly of the muscle. When they become active, you will notice discomfort on palpation and possible painful movement.  These can hinder fluid movement and cause soreness.  To release these tender spots simply apply pressure for 30-180 seconds and it should resolve during that time period.

How can I benefit from manual therapy
Manual therapy literally means therapy with our hands. “Everything in moderation” is a phrase by mother would use often. This goes for exercise as well. A manual therapist will prescribe specific key exercises that are targeted specifically at increasing the healing process and preventing the problem from returning. Instead of coming to an exercise class for an hour, we will work with you to provide manual resistance for strengthening using the principals of PNF, Feldenkrais, and NDT.  We spend the majority of our time touching, evaluating, and healing with our hands. Your are an active participant in interventions.

We will show you ways to release your own trigger points and other self-help tools that can be very helpful.