What is Manual Therapy?

manual therapy

Manual Therapy is the hands-on manipulation of soft tissues: muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and joints. Manual Therapy involves massaging, shaking, vibrating, rolling, scraping, stretching, strengthening, warming and cooling to restore flexibility to muscles and mobility to joints. Every culture throughout our collective history has utilized manual therapists. Many of the techniques are the same. However, in the last 20 years, more research has been done in this area than in all the preceding years. We have a better understanding of which techniques are effective for specific conditions and which are shown to be ineffective.

Some techniques have become more advanced and precise, as groups of people have become specialists in this area: osteopaths, chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists. Most of their techniques require training and practice, but many techniques are the basic ones you would use to help someone feel better following injury or who is complaining of aches and pains that regularly occur as a result of living life. To aid in the process, various tools have been developed to assist the restoration of full, pain free function.

In ancient China, manual therapy was often classified as either “external” or “internal” treatment. Tui Na was one of the external methods, thought to be especially suitable for use on the elderly population and on infants. In modern China, many hospitals include Tui Na as a standard aspect of treatment, with specialization for infants, adults, orthopedics, traumatology, cosmetology, rehabilitation, and sports medicine [1]. In the West, Tui Na is taught as a part of the curriculum at some acupuncture schools [2] .

Traditional Chinese medicine also uses tools to scrape the soft tissue with the goal of breaking up adhesions, softening scar tissue, and removing superficial muscle knots. This technique is called Gua Sha [3]. Recently, physical therapists and chiropractors have taken up the technique, naming it Graston Technique or Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation [4]. There are variations in the materials and shapes of the tools but the technique is in essence the same. In Chinese medicine, vacuum cups are also used on the body surface to provide localized stretching to fascia overlying problematic areas (such as a painful area in the low back). Again, physical therapists and chiropractors have taken up the technique because it is effective for some types of musculoskeletal pain [1]. The goal of all the Manual Therapy techniques is to restore pain-free function.

Working with someone who is guided by current best evidence will help you avoid wasting time and resources pursuing treatments with merely anecdotal support. At Mark Thompson Acutherapy, we incorporate an evidence-based approach to offer you the latest most effective scientifically proven treatments suitable to your condition.


  1. New is the well-forgotten old: The use of dry cupping in musculoskeletal medicine. Rozenfeld E1, Kalichman L2. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2016 Jan;20(1):173-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2015.11.009. Epub 2015 Dec
  2. Claire, Thomas (1995). Bodywork: What Type of Massage to Get and How to Make the Most of It. William Morrow and Co. p. 171. ISBN 9781591202325.
  3. http://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/press-releases/2015/05/05/science-gua-sha
  4. http://astym.com/Content/documents/Research%20Overview%20Astym%20therapy.pdf