You might have heard of a term called joint mobilization or manipulation. If you’ve had physiotherapy treatment in the past, you might even have felt what it feels like. Maybe you feel a bit apprehensive to have your joint ‘mobilized’, especially when it’s really sore. However, you don’t need to be afraid at all. Usually, it is a firm, but comfortable movement. This article will explain to you exactly what you can expect from joint mobilizations.
What exactly is joint mobilization?
The word mobilization means: to make something movable or capable of movement. In other words, joint mobilization is a treatment that involves movement of a joint with the aim of improving its capability to move.
When you move any part of your body, it is called physiological movement. Muscles and joints allow you to do these movements. This enables you to do everyday things like reaching up into the cupboard or putting on clothes. Every single joint in your body has certain physiological movements that it should be able to do. For example: your knee should be able to do flexion (bending) and extension (straightening).
All our joints also allow accessory (extra) movements. These are movements which you cannot do on your own. Let’s use the knee as an example again. Your knee joint can do more than just bend and straighten. It also allows twisting or sliding. However, you won’t be able to do these on your own. If someone, like a physiotherapist, took your knee joint in their hands and did a twisting movement, your knee would allow it. That’s where joint mobilisation comes in. It is the careful use of skilled, graded forces to move your joint in a direction that you are not always able to move into yourself.
Both physiological movement and accessory movement is necessary for each joint to have a full and pain-free range of motion.
Why do we use joint mobilizations?
When a joint feels stiff, often we try to relieve it by stretching, but unfortunately that mostly has an effect on surrounding muscles and ligaments. Whereas, joint mobilizations are specific to the structure of the joint itself.
It is a very effective technique that physiotherapists use to encourage normal mobility of joints, soft tissue and nerves. Especially when stiffness is dominant.