Joint Mobilization - What is it and how does it work?

Manipulative therapy is defined by Banks & Hengeveld (2010) as "an important skill whereby a therapist's hand are used in a skilled way to assess, examine and help to treat painful restrictions of movement".

The Maitland Concept of Manipulative Physiotherapy is an internationally recognized examination and treatment method for patients with pain and restriction of movement affecting the joints, muscles and nerves of their spine and their upper and lower extremities (IMTA, 2008).

The process involves 6 main principles:

1. skilled questioning to identify the extent of the individual's movement problems

2. recognized examination and tests to identify by how much the individual's movement has been affected

3. recognized mobilization and manipulation techniques, which aim to restore ideal pain-free mobility with effected joints

4. skills to recognize when manipulative therapy is unlikely to be effective and when other medical or physiotherapy treatment is needed

5. assessment skills to constantly monitor the effects of treatment on pain and mobility

6. functional rehabilitation and exercise to help the individual to return to normal levels of activity

How can it help sports performance?

In the interest of keeping things simple, I am going to concentrate on "accessory mobilizations". This type of joint mobilization involves the break down of a movement in order to mobilize the joint step by step at a more micro level to increase mobility on a larger scale.

To make that a little bit more understandable, think of a 100m sprint. The sprint technique can be broken down to arm movements, hip/knee drive, body position etc. These are the "accessory movements". By working on a higher knee drive you will improve the overall sprint performance, and by working on all components of the sprint technique, you will improve performance further.

So to put that into context for the knee for example; my increasing mobility at the knee to improve range of movement (ROM) in flexion and extention, you can improve squat technique/performance.

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