The Shortcomings of Manual Therapy – Resilient Athlete

The Shortcomings of Manual Therapy

Many practitioners rely on some type of manual therapy interventions i.e spinal manipulations, massage, dry needling, cupping. There are several reasons why practitioners tend to rely on manual therapy including the following:

  • It creates quick results that impress the patient and become a good selling point for follow up visits
  • Many patients see it as a display of impressive skill leading them to believe this specific practitioner is exceptional in some way.
  • It makes the patient feel that the practitioner is solely responsible for their health/recovery. This can lead to patients returning for visits consistently because they believe they are unable to stay healthy on their own.

However, the reasons I just stated above are actually the biggest reasons that I don’t like to use manual therapy as my primary form of treatment. Let’s take the reasons above and reframe them, so you can see how I look at them.

  • The quick results that manual therapy create are temporary and short lived. Manual therapy essentially tricks the nervous system into temporarily relaxing and reducing pain. However, once the effects wear off, patients are very often right back where they started.
  • Doing complicated techniques to patients only seem impressive because patients are untrained in such techniques. What I find truly impressive is when practitioners can make their treatment and interventions seem simple to their patients despite there being unexplained complexities of their choices and rationale.
  • Making a patient rely on a practitioner is a sure fire way to hinder their recovery. Patients respond much better when they believe they can control the outcome of their treatment. Patient involvement in their own treatment via active interventions (exercise) is the best way to maximize patient self-efficacy and confidence in their own resiliency, health, and longevity.

Unlike the short term effects of manual therapy, active interventions aka exercise, loading/volume management, and activity modifications have the ability to yield long term health benefits and longevity in whatever activity the patient enjoys doing. If you lay on a table for an entire appointment with a health practitioner, consider investing in someone who values long term health and longevity over short term relief.