Manual Therapy

Manual therapy is one of the main modalities of physical therapy. As the name suggests, this type of treatment is performed by a physical therapist using hands-on techniques to help strengthen and stretch different aspects of the body to reduce pain and increase range of motion. 

In this page, we’re going to walk you through exactly how manual therapy works, what conditions this type of treatment is used for, and what the benefits are compared to other modalities. Think of this guide as your be-all-end-all for everything manual therapy related. 

What Is Manual Therapy, Exactly?

Manual therapy actually describes a group of hands-on physical therapy treatments. These treatments are often used to treat stiff, painful joints by addressing the soft tissue and ligaments around the joint. 

While the term “manual therapy” may sound painful, your physical therapist will work with you to make sure you are not experiencing any discomfort during the session. Some of the common types of manual therapy performed by a physical therapist include:

  • Joint manipulation — This type of manual therapy targets the joint specifically to help improve range of motion and reduce stiffness and pain within the joint. This is particularly effective for shoulder and elbow pain. 
  • Joint mobilization — Similar to joint manipulation, joint mobilization helps improve range of motion with slow, repetitive movements in the joint to help loosen up any stiffness. 
  • Therapeutic stretching — This type of assisted stretching helps to deepen a stretch and really isolate the tight muscles in the body. Stretching helps to improve range of motion and posture, decrease pinched nerve pain, and relieve other pain and stiffness in the body.
  • Trigger point therapy — Trigger points are places in the body that, when pressed, can refer pain to a distant part in the body. In some cases, people may be feeling pain and stiffness in one place in the body because an associated trigger point is compressed. Trigger point therapy is a technique used to relieve pain in the trigger point, thereby relieving pain in the referred area. An example of this is referred pain in your hip due to tight muscles in your lower back. 
  • Soft tissue manipulation — Soft tissue manipulation is a way to increase blood flow and stimulate healing in the soft tissue surrounding a tight or painful joint. 

These types of therapies often work in conjunction with each other to help patients find the most relief from their conditions.

Conditions Treated With Manual Therapy

Because these manual therapy techniques target joints, muscles, soft tissue and ligaments/tendons, they can be used to help relieve the symptoms of many conditions, such as:

  • Arthritis 
  • Sprains and strains
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Tennis elbow
  • Knee pain
  • Tendinitis
  • Low back pain
  • Joint stiffness and immobility
  • Post operative stiffness 

All of these conditions directly impact the health of specific muscles and joints in the body. By using a combination of manual therapies, a physical therapist can target the root of the condition and help restore movement and mobility into that area. 

Benefits of Manual Therapy

There are many benefits of manual therapy, especially if you choose to be proactive about your treatment before your symptoms become debilitating. Some of the benefits include:

  • Increased range of motion
  • Decreased pain and aches
  • Improved muscle control
  • Better joint mobility
  • Reduced muscle spasms and muscle weakness
  • Overall better strength and stability in the affected area

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of manual therapy is that it is proven to reduce the risk of surgery when a patient is proactive about treatment. The purpose of manual therapy isn’t just to relieve the current symptoms — it’s to help prevent future injury and pain from developing. That’s why it’s one of the most common techniques used among physical therapists. 

How to Get Started

If you’re ready to get started with manual therapy treatment for your chronic pain, you don’t have to seek a doctor to get a referral for physical therapy. You can access a physical therapist directly by contacting our office or visiting our locations page to find a clinic near you. We typically see patients within 24 to 48 hours after their initial point of contact. The quicker you are to schedule an appointment, the better you’ll see results. Our team at Lattimore Physical Therapy is ready to help you find relief from all of your aches and pains. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a health care profession that involves evaluating, diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal system. The goal of physical therapy is to focus on movement in order to restore function, minimize pain and improve an individual’s quality of life. Physical therapists often utilize treatment modalities such as therapeutic exercise, soft tissue mobilization, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and other treatments to help achieve these goals.  

Do I Need a Referral?

The state of New York has “direct access” to physical therapy, which means that patients are not legally required to have a physician’s referral to see a physical therapist. However, some insurances may require patients to have a referral or authorization before they will approve payment. Be sure to contact your insurance company beforehand and determine the process that they require.

It’s important to know that if you are under the care of a physician and require physical therapy treatment, you have the freedom to choose your own physical therapy clinic.

Do You Accept My Insurance?

We accept most major insurance coverages. Some of those we accept include Tricare, Medicare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna and workers’ compensation. If you don’t see your insurance company listed above, reach out to us and we’ll let you know if we accept yours. At the time of scheduling your first appointment, we request that you provide us your insurance information so that we may verify your benefits and coverage.  

How Can I Pay for Treatment?

We accept payment via cash, check, flex spending card, and debit or credit card (Visa, Mastercard and Discover). Payment is expected at the time of treatment and typically required during check-in. If you have insurance coverage, there may be a deductible or copay required. 

Before your first visit, we will contact your insurance company to verify your benefits for physical therapy. Some insurance providers have restrictions on specific treatments. As a courtesy, Lattimore Physical Therapy files with your primary insurance as well as any secondary coverage. You will be billed for any cost share (if applicable) after your insurance has paid their portion. 

What Should I Expect During My First Visit?

During your initial visit, your physical therapist will provide you with a thorough 45-minute to one-hour evaluation in a private room. Please be prepared to discuss your needs, your pain, and any lack of mobility or function that you currently have. This evaluation will involve certain range-of-motion, postural and strength tests to help your physical therapist develop a plan unique to you and your condition.Treatment for your injury will begin on the day of your initial visit.  

How Should I Dress?

You should wear loose-fitting clothing during each session with us. Loose-fitting clothing helps us access and move the areas of the body that are being treated. If you have a knee problem, it is best to wear shorts. For a shoulder problem, a tank top is a good choice. For low back problems, a loose-fitting shirt and pants are the best go-tos.

Do I Need to Bring Any MRIs or X-rays That I Have?

Please bring any relevant MRI or X-ray interpretation reports from your physician’s office. However, since X-rays and MRIs aren’t always the most telling, your physical therapist will want to also take into account your medical history and other physical tests and measures. Their goal is to perform an evaluation as best they can using a thorough series of processes.

How Many Visits Will I Need?

The number of visits necessary to complete treatment varies from patient to patient. Some patients only undergo a couple of sessions, while others need several months of care. It most often depends on your diagnosis, the severity of your impairment(s), your past medical history and other similar factors. You will also be reevaluated on a monthly basis. Each time you visit your doctor, we will provide you with a progress report with our professional recommendations.

Can I Bring My Child With Me to My Appointments?

Yes! Our policy allows for children to accompany their parents during appointments.