What is Joint Manipulation?

joint manipulation

Joint manipulation is a type of manual therapy involving applying force to a specific joint in the body to improve its range of motion and reduce pain. It’s typically performed by a trained healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor, physical therapist, or osteopath.

Joint manipulation has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, including back pain, neck pain, and joint stiffness. In this article, we will explore the benefits of joint manipulation, look at some of the evidence supporting its use, and discuss who can benefit from joint manipulation.

How Joint Manipulation Works

Before we dive into the benefits of joint manipulation, it’s essential to understand how it works. Joint manipulation is based on the principles of joint mobilization, which involves moving a joint through its full range of motion. This movement can help to improve joint lubrication, increase circulation, and reduce inflammation.

Joint manipulation takes joint mobilization a step further by applying a high-velocity, low-amplitude force to the joint. This force is often accompanied by an audible popping or cracking sound, which is caused by the release of gas bubbles within the joint. This release of gas can create a sensation of relief and improved mobility in the joint.

What Causes Joint Dysfunction?

There are medical and non-medical reasons why joint dysfunction may occur.

    • Non-medical: Overuse and repetitive strain, poor posture, lack of physical activity, stretching
  • Medical: Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal arthritis, herniated lumber or cervical discs, joint contracture after being immobilized

Benefits of Joint Manipulation

Improved Range of Motion

One of the primary benefits of joint manipulation is improved range of motion. When a joint is restricted or stiff, it can limit your ability to perform certain movements and activities. Joint manipulation can help to restore normal joint movement, allowing you to move more freely and easily. This can be especially beneficial for athletes or individuals who have suffered an injury that has limited their mobility.

Reduced Pain

Joint manipulation has been shown to be an effective treatment for reducing pain in various musculoskeletal conditions. Studies have demonstrated that joint manipulation can effectively reduce pain and improve function in patients with low back pain and knee osteoarthritis.

Improved Joint Lubrication

Joint manipulation can help to improve joint lubrication by increasing synovial fluid production. Synovial fluid is a lubricating fluid that helps to reduce friction between the bones and cartilage in a joint.

When a joint is stiff or restricted, synovial fluid production may be reduced, leading to increased friction and wear on the joint surfaces. Joint manipulation can help to stimulate synovial fluid production, reducing friction and improving joint health.

Increased Circulation

Joint manipulation can also help to increase circulation to the joint, which can promote healing and reduce inflammation. When a joint is restricted or stiff, blood flow to the area may be reduced, leading to a build-up of inflammatory chemicals. Joint manipulation can help to increase blood flow to the area, promoting healing and reducing inflammation.

Non-Invasive Treatment Option

Another benefit of joint manipulation is that it is a non-invasive treatment option. Unlike surgery or medication, joint manipulation does not involve cutting or piercing the skin, nor does it require using drugs or other chemicals. This makes it a safe and effective option for individuals who prefer a more natural approach to healthcare.

Evidence Supporting the Use of Joint Manipulation

There is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of joint manipulation for various musculoskeletal conditions. For example, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that spinal manipulation was more effective than medication for reducing acute low back pain.

In addition, a 2019 study found that joint manipulation was effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Other studies have also shown the benefits of joint manipulation in conditions such as neck and shoulder pain and headaches.

Who Can Benefit From Joint Manipulation?

You may benefit from joint manipulation if you are generally in good health. It’s a safe and helpful therapy technique for people including:

  • Those with acute back, neck, or peripheral joint pain
  • Adults between 25-65 who don’t have significant medical conditions
  • Injured athletes
  • Those who have been immobilized after an injury or surgery

Who Should Avoid Joint Manipulation?

For some, joint manipulation can be dangerous or result in injury. Therefore, you should avoid joint manipulation if you have any of the following conditions.

    • Osteoporosis: The high-velocity force used in joint manipulation can fracture weakened bones
  • Joint fractures
  • Spinal fusion surgery: You should avoid joint manipulation for at least a year after spinal fusion surgery. During this time, your bones are still healing, and joint manipulation can cause the fusion to fail.
  • Impaired judgment: You will need to communicate with your physical therapist during joint manipulation. If mental or emotional health issues impair your judgment, the feedback provided to the physical therapist may be limited, resulting in increased pain or injury.
  • Arterial insufficiency in the neck: During joint manipulation in the neck, a rare but dangerous side effect is a tear in your vertebrobasilar artery. If you have a deficiency here, neck manipulation can cause a disruption and lead to stroke or death.

Turn to UpSlope Physical Therapy for Joint Manipulation Near Fort Collins, CO

Joint manipulation is a safe and effective treatment option for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. There is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of joint manipulation, particularly for conditions such as low back pain and knee osteoarthritis. However, discussing the risks and benefits of joint manipulation with a healthcare professional is important to determine if it is an appropriate treatment option for you.

At Upslope Physical Therapy & Performance, our goal is to help athletes and active adults recover from pain or injuries so they can get back to what they love to do most. We understand that pain is different for everyone, so our first step is to determine what is happening to your body and how it affects your life so that we can create a customized plan based on your goals.

Contact us today to request an appointment.

author avatar
Brady Hoffmann
As an active individual, staying healthy and injury-free is important to you. You make time for your workouts and training because it helps you focus, spend time with yourself, and work toward your goals.

Brady Hoffmann DPT, ATC

Owner and Founder of UpSlope PT

We Help Athletes and Active Adults Quickly Recover From Pain Or Injury So They Can Stay Active And Get Back To What They Love To Do.