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Union physical therapists explain why we use manual therapy in light of recent study

manual therapy union, nj

At Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, it’s our primary goal to always provide each patient with the best possible treatments and interventions for their condition in order to help them improve as quickly as possible. In order to accomplish this, we strive to constantly keep up with the latest developments in physical therapy research to ensure we’re using the most appropriate treatment for every condition we treat. We also believe that interested patients deserve to be exposed to some of these notable developments, and this is why our Union physical therapists will focus some of our blogs on recent studies that highlight effective treatments and interventions that may be used on you.

This month we’d like to discuss manual therapy, which is a specialized form of physical therapy that our therapists use—but not all do—to address a variety of injuries and painful conditions. Rather than using a device or a machine, in manual therapy your physical therapist uses their hands to put pressure on muscle tissue and manipulate joints in order to relieve pain and other symptoms. For this reason, manual therapy is considered a passive intervention rather than an active one, since the work is done on the patient rather than by the patient.

Manual therapy is most commonly used to treat pain in the neck and back, but it can be applied to just about any joint in the body, including the shoulders, wrists, knees and ankles. Before administering it, your therapist will perform a complete assessment of the area to determine if there’s any risk of complications. If manual therapy is deemed appropriate, the therapist will perform a series of manipulations, mobilizations and possibly other techniques that will stretch the surrounding muscles, ligaments and area surrounding the joint to improve its range of motion. When combined with other treatments, manual therapy will reduce pain and help patients move easier.

Evaluating effectiveness of manual therapy in recent study

In an attempt to better understand the effectiveness of manual therapy, researchers evaluated its use on nonspecific neck pain in a recent study. Nonspecific neck pain is the most common type of pain in the region and means that its exact origin or cause is not known. In this particular study, the question was whether or not the addition of manual therapy to stabilization exercises—which are also commonly used to strengthen neck muscles and reduce pain—could lead to greater benefits than the exercises used alone.

Researchers selected a group of 102 patients with nonspecific neck pain and randomly assigned them to one of two groups. One group followed a course of stabilization exercises only, which lasted four weeks and was designed to strengthen and stabilize the muscles surrounding the neck and shoulder blades. Patients in the other group also went through these exercises, but in addition, were treated with 12 sessions of manual therapy over four weeks in which a therapist performed manipulations in the same region.

After four weeks, patients who were treated with both the stabilization exercises and manual therapy reported that they had less pain at night, improved disability, greater range of motion and better quality of life than the other patients. This study points out how the addition of manual therapy led to greater overall outcomes for patients and helped them improve more quickly and efficiently than exercises alone.

At Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, our Union physical therapists use manual therapy techniques for nonspecific neck pain and for a number of other conditions when we consider it to be appropriate. If you’re dealing with neck pain or lingering pain anywhere else in your body, we can get to the source of it and determine what the most appropriate treatment is. Call us at 908-258-8782 or click here to schedule an appointment at any of our four clinics in Edison, Woodbridge, Somerville or Union, NJ today.

Click here to read the summary (abstract) of the study on manual therapy for nonspecific neck pain.


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