Manual therapy is the branch of physical therapy that involves a hands-on approach. The method shows immense promise for correcting and preventing injuries, allowing athletes and non-athletes, young and old alike, to enjoy their bodies to the fullest potential.
Repeated stress on muscles, joints, and tendons through physical activity and general everyday use causes wear on the body that can lead to chronic pain. The best way to combat such pain from happening is through manual therapy. A 2006 study showed that people with chronic neck pain displayed a significant decrease in symptoms after one year of either manual therapy or physical therapy that utilized exercise to combat and prevent chronic pain.
A competent physical therapist applies a combination of massage and exercises to increase their client’s range of motion, to increase oxygen flow to tissues, and to prevent problematic habits from developing into more severe problems.
“When I went to see a physical therapist after I tore my ACL, the massage sessions were definitely the highlight,” said Ben Singer ’20. “Not only was my knee a large focus of the massages, but so was my thoracic and paraspinal mobility, so I could participate in my knee rehabilitation in full.”
The main purpose of these massages is to increase blood flow to damaged tissue, which allows more oxygenation and, in turn, better healing. Increased oxygen levels also add to the “calming” feeling commonly experienced after massage therapy.
In conjunction with massages, patients are commonly prescribed stretches, strength training, and conditioning. Such methods can include cardiovascular training on a stationary bike and plyometrics. By increasing strength, the body is better equipped to handle unexpected force — preventing injuries before they happen — and can recover from any injury more efficiently.
Take back pain for example. According to the American Chiropractic Association, over 31 million Americans experience lower back pain, accounting for over 264 million lost work days in a year. Physical therapy for lower back pain often includes heavy focus on core strength building. The abdominals are the “foundational” muscles of the body. When these muscles are weak, the back overcompensates, resulting in the chronic lower back pain felt by 85 to 90 percent of Americans throughout their lifetime.
The benefits of both physical and manual therapy are undeniable, with results visible in populations across the board. Whether you’re looking for injury rehabilitation, prevention, or to increase your mobility and flexibility, physical therapy is worth a shot.
Just a 10 minute walk from campus, Peak Performance Physical Therapy is constantly helping people, including CC students. Rocky Mountain Rehab is also within walking distance from campus and has excellent reviews from students and faculty members!