Although chiropractors are well known for making manipulative therapeutic adjustments to the joints, there are other important tools in their toolbox.
One of these is manual therapy, elements of which are also practiced by physical therapists, massage therapists, athletic trainers, and others.
In this form of treatment, practitioners use skilled hand movements to apply pressure, or to guide joint and soft tissue movement. It is distinguished from a manipulative adjustment, which is focused on restoring spinal/joint alignment, and often involves the “pop” of gas being released.
Manual therapy used on muscles may involve kneading out “knots,” promoting the movement of lymphatic fluids, or helping to stretch tight areas. Soft tissue work can improve circulation, relax muscles, and reduce fascia adhesions.
Manual therapy may also be targeted at joints, where it is used to increase range of motion, or loosen ligaments as needed. Mobilization techniques are used to restore a given joint to proper function.
Typically, manual therapy is conducted without the use of any aids or tools – just the pressure being applied from the hands of the practitioner. However, in some cases, manual therapy may require the use of a tool or instrument to further deepen the effect of the manual therapy in the tissues or muscles of the patient. This is called IASTM or Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization. IASTM is a hands-on therapy where the doctor treats musculoskeletal injuries by using tools to apply pressure against the skin.