Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptHHS Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
PMC full text:
Man Ther. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Oct 1.
Published in final edited form as:
Man Ther. 2009 Oct; 14(5): 531–538.
Published online 2008 Nov 21. doi:  10.1016/j.math.2008.09.001

Table 1

Return to:   The Mechanisms of Manual Therapy in the Treatment of Musculoskeletal Pain

Categorization of manual therapy techniques

Manual Therapy
DefinitionDesired Outcomes

Joint Biased
  • Manipulation
  • Mobilization
  • Passive movement of a joint beyond the normal range of motion.
  • Passive movement of a joint within its normal range of motion.
  • Improved range of motion
  • Decrease muscle spasm
  • Decreased pain

Soft Tissue Biased
  • Swedish Massage
  • Stroking and kneading of the skin and underlying soft tissue
  • Improve circulation
  • Decrease muscle spasm
  • Relaxation
  • Deep Tissue Massage
  • Deep stroking and pressure across the muscles and soft tissue
  • Re-align soft tissue
  • Break adhesions
  • Increase range of motion
  • Trigger Point Massage
  • Deep pressure to areas of local tenderness
  • Release muscle spasm
  • Remove cellular exudates
  • Shiatsu Massage
  • Varying, rhythmic pressure from the fingers
  • Improve Circulation
  • Decrease muscle spasm
  • Relaxation

Nerve Biased
  • Neural Dynamics
  • Passive, combined movement of the spine and extremities, within their normal range of motion, in ways to elongate or tension specific nerves.
  • Improve range of motion
  • Decrease pain
Classification of manual therapy techniques referenced in manuscript along with specific examples of each. Proposed model is general and accounts for all techniques regardless of their theorized anatomical emphasis. Adapted from NCCAM website.(http:nccam.nih.gov/ 2007)