Within the physical therapy profession, manual therapy is defined as a clinical approach utilizing skilled, specific hands-on techniques, including but not limited to manipulation/mobilization, used by the physical therapist to treat soft tissues (muscular and fascial restrictions) and joint structures. At ITR Physical Therapy, our physical therapists utilize a number of gentle manual therapy techniques when they feel it is indicated for that particular patient. In general, these techniques help to decrease pain, increase range of motion (ROM), induce relaxation and calm soft tissue inflammation. This further benefits the body by helping to increase soft tissue extensibility and facilitate mobility and movement thereby improving function. In our practice we utilize a number of osteopathic techniques, including Craniosacral Therapy, Visceral Manipulation, Mechanical Link and Muscle Energy Techniques. We also practice Strain Counterstrain, Myofascial Release and Manual Lymphatic Drainage.
Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle manual therapy developed by osteopath, Dr. John Upledger. According to the Upledger Institute, CST is a “gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system – comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.” Practitioners use a very light touch to release restrictions in a person’s craniosacral rhythm helping to calm and restore natural function of one’s autonomic nervous system and decrease pain and dysfunction.
Visceral Manipulation is an osteopathic technique this has been developed and refined by a French Osteopath, Jean Pierre Barral, PT, DO. According to the Barral Institute, visceral manipulation is, “based on the specific placement of soft manual forces to encourage the normal mobility, tone and motion of the viscera and their connective tissues. These gentle manipulations can potentially improve the functioning of individual organs, the systems the organs function within, and the structural integrity of the entire body.”
Mechanical Link is an osteopathic approach to treating the body developed by French osteopath Paul Chaufer, DO. In Mechanical Link the practitioner uses a gentle touch, called a recoil, that encourages the balance of tensions in the fascial system with the goal of bringing tension into equilibrium and allowing the body to return to optimal functioning ability.
Muscle Energy Techniques
Muscle Energy Techniques are gentle (often isometric) muscular contractions designed to treat joint or muscle hypomobility or pain. This technique can be utilized throughout the musculoskeletal system. These contractions can help calm or reset muscle length by activating the muscles spindle fibers and golgi tendon organs.
Lawrence Jones, DO is the developer of Strain counterstrain, which was originally known as Positional Release Technique. In this technique a passive body movement is used by putting the tight or spasmed muscle or joint into a shortened position of decreased tension and pain or ease. Once this position is held for 90 seconds, a calming of the aberrant reflexes occurs. This allows the muscle to relax and function on a more normal functional level (often with increased range of motion) with less pain.
Myofascial Release is a hands on massage technique that focuses on releasing restrictions and trigger points throughout one’s fascial system. Fascia is a type of connective tissue, much like a thin web of tissue, that surrounds and connects all of the structures of the body including organs, skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments, nerves and blood vessels. The goal of releasing restrictions throughout one’s fascial system is to decrease pain, increase restricted range of motion and improve much needed fascial mobility and improve overall body structure.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage
MLD is a very light touch massage technique designed to encourage natural flow of one’s lymphatic system. Like the venous system, the lymphatic system brings larger molecules (like large protein molecules) from the tissues back up to the heart. The lymphatic system also plays an important role in immune function and releasing waste products.