Joint and Soft Tissue Mobilization

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What is mobilization?

Mobilization is a hands-on manual therapy designed to restore joint movement, power, and range of motion. The therapist gently coaxes joint motion by passive movement within or to the limit of a joint's normal range of motion. The therapist's movement of the joint is very precise and is limited by the amount of joint play, which may be less than 1/8th of an inch.

Physical Therapy session, highlighting internal structuresPhysical Therapists, Osteopaths, and Chiropractors perform mobilization.The overall goal of mobilization is to restore normal joint function including the surrounding soft tissue (e.g. muscle, ligaments, fascia). Physical Therapists, Osteopaths, and Chiropractors perform mobilization.

What part of the spine is treated?
In the spine, any of the facet joints and/or the costovertebral articulations (thoracic spine and ribs) may become stiff causing joint dysfunction. When a joint is unable to move freely, a cycle of muscle spasm, pain, and fatigue may begin.

What causes joint dysfunction?
Joint dysfunction can be caused by poor posture, trauma, spinal disease, or congenital problems. Left untreated, joint dysfunction can affect the surrounding soft tissue and may lead to a loss of strength and flexibility.

Are other treatments involved in mobilization?
Myofascial release, or soft tissue mobilization, is a therapy used to release tension stored in the fascia. Fascia are sheets of fibrous tissue that encase and support muscles separating them into groups and layers. Fascia also covers joints capsules and ligaments. Following trauma, the fascia and muscles may shorten restricting joint movement and blood flow. The techniques used in myofascial release break up fascial adhesions and relaxes muscle tension helping to normalize physical motion within the joint capsule.

Commentary by Mary Rodts, DNP

Adjunctive care by a knowledgeable physical therapist with an expertise in the spine can be a great asset for the patient with a spinal problem. Recovery and rehabilitation can be enhanced and hastened.

Updated on: 04/30/18
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Exercise and Physical Therapy
Mary Rodts, DNP
Associate Professor
Rush College of Nursing
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