Many patients arrive at their first physical therapy appointment expecting to receive hot packs, ultrasound and instructions on how to complete a series of exercises. These modalities are warranted in many instances and most therapists would agree that exercise is needed to help restore muscle imbalances. However, many therapists now approach the restoration of function from a different perspective. These therapists are interested in why a muscle isn’t functioning properly and view back exercise not as the driving mode of recovery but as a complement to manual therapy. They may, for instance, look to restore proper sacroiliac or lumbar joint function to treat piriformis syndrome rather then directly manipulate the piriformis muscle through exercise.
Manual therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy delivered with the hands as opposed to a device or machine. In manual therapy, practitioners use their hands to put pressure on muscle tissue and manipulate joints in an attempt to decrease back pain caused by muscle spasm, muscle tension and joint dysfunction.