I believe manual therapy is one of the most underutilized therapeutic interventions in our current healthcare paradigm.
Musculoskeletal stress and injury is the leading cause of sickness related workplace absenteeism, and the most diagnosed condition during doctor’s office visits.
In a study of global disease in December 2012, it was found that musculoskeletal disease is the second leading cause of disability and has the fourth greatest impact on global health and longevity.
The population at large is really missing out on something very effective and useful.
Wikipedia defines Manual Therapy as, “Manual therapy, or manipulative therapy, is a physical treatment primarily used by massage therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, and osteopathic physicians to treat musculoskeletal pain and disability; it most commonly includes kneading and manipulation of muscles, joint mobilization and joint manipulation.”
For the sake of Scope of Practice issues, I will only comment on the value of manual therapy from the perspective of a massage therapist, to which I humbly profess my professional allegiance, in context with my own education and experience.
In other words, as a massage therapist with oodles of training, my scope of practice does differ than say, a fresh graduate.
I claim Doctors of Sports Medicine, Osteopathic Physicians, Physical Therapists, Biomechanists and Chiropractors amongst my teachers.
This gives me a little more insight and perspective into the issues with your tissues, and provides me with a more comprehensive approach to assessing and addressing your aches, pains, and injury complaints.
No, I will not crack your back for you.
Yes, I can manipulate and mobilize soft tissues to free up movement and provide for greater, more effective movement economy.
I also shamelessly do a victory dance when research studies assert the efficacy of what I provide my clients.
For instance, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found among the leading manual therapy resources of massage therapy, spinal manipulation, and acupuncture, massage therapy outperformed the other therapies.
Another nod to the efficacy of massage therapy comes from the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). In this study, participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups, 1) comprehensive manual therapy, which included soft tissue manipulation, remedial exercise and posture reeducation, 2) manual therapy only, 3) remedial exercise with posture reeducation only, and 4) placebo treatment of sham laser therapy.
Of the four groups, the comprehensive massage group showed statistically significant improvements in improved function, less intense pain, and a decrease in the quality of pain.
Furthermore, at the 1-month follow-up, the comprehensive massage group reported no pain in 63% of it’s subjects versus 27% of the soft-tissue manipulation group, 14% of the remedial exercises and 0% improvement of the sham laser therapy users.
If you need more information to justify calling a well-trained massage therapist for your aches and pains, and so I can do some more victory dancing, you can find more support for massage therapy here and here.
A good Google Scholar query will also provide numerous studies supporting acupuncture and spinal manipulation, either chiropractic or osteopathic (yes, they can be different), and movement based physical therapy programs.
Different strokes for different folks, and all that.
Like I said, I claim allegiance to my profession and I do see greater need for all of us manual therapists to work together instead of back-biting and ego-driven in-fighting.
Yeah, there’s a lot of school yard shenanigans amongst us manual cowboys and cowgirls.
I think it does the most disservice to you, dear reader who-has-aches-and-pains-and-would-just-like-some-relief.
No wonder the medical community-at-large roll their eyes and shake their heads at us sometimes.
I shake my head at us too.
And no wonder, despite ample evidence supporting it’s effectiveness, why manual therapy is so often disregarded as a viable and useful option in your recovery program.
At the end of the day, you shake your head at us as well.