When you’re in pain or want to improve your musculoskeletal functions, you want to find a solution that will work best for you. But do you truly know all of your options?

When people think of manual therapy - their mind often goes directly to massage therapy. However, physiotherapy, chiropractic care, manual osteopathy, and massage therapy are all great options that might work. But, how exactly do you know what type of manual therapy would work best?

This is a problem faced by many. You know that you need to find care, but aren’t sure what type of practitioner you need to see to get the most out of your treatment. Keep reading to learn a bit about the 4 different manual therapies, so you know exactly what practitioner will work best for you next time. 


Physiotherapists use a patient-centered approach to assess, treat, and manage pain, injuries, movement dysfunction, and chronic conditions. Specific conditions that physiotherapists can help alleviate include neck and back pain caused by problems in the muscles and skeleton, problems in the bones joints muscles and ligaments such as arthritis or the after effects of amputation, pelvic issues, loss of mobility due to trauma of the brain or spine, and even fatigue, pain, swelling, stiffness, or loss of muscle strength - for example during cancer treatment or palliative care.

As licensed healthcare professionals, physiotherapists use an evidence-informed knowledge of areas such as rehabilitation sciences,anatomy, kinesiology and physiology. Most physiotherapists work with clients of all ages and a wide range of health conditions. However, there are many physiotherapists who undergo additional training and education to specialize in a specific area. 

For example, there are pediatric physiotherapists who work with infants and children to improve the growth and development of the child, both physically and mentally. There are physiotherapists who specialize in female health and work to relieve pain for pregnant women or promote a controlled childbirth, strengthen the pelvic floor, or general core strengthening. Geriatric physiotherapists help with restoring mobility, strength, and endurance, or reducing chronic pain, improving bad posture and improving overall health and fitness. Neurological physiotherapists help with conditions relating to the nervous system - helping to rebuild neural pathways, improving motor control, balance, hand-to-eye coordination, and more sensation. Sports physiotherapists deal entirely with athletes and sports professionals to encourage healthy techniques to prevent injury, and also help with progressive injury management. 

These are just a few - but it goes to show there are dozens of options out there even just within the field of physiotherapy. 

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors are experts in the spine, muscle, joint, and nervous systems, and are trained to evaluate, diagnose, recommend, and deliver a treatment plan. Chiropractic care involves the strategic manipulation of the spine, joints, and soft tissues to help correct the body’s alignment, which can reduce pain and improve overall physical function.  

Specific conditions that chiropractors can help with include back pain caused by sprains or strains, cervicogenic headaches, degenerative disc disease, herniated disks, myofascial pain, sciatica, whiplash, arthritis, pain associated with diabetes and more. 

Chiropractors will use different therapy methods depending on the specific patient and their needs, but common treatments include manual, hands-on therapy, soft tissue therapy, electronic modalities such as therapeutic ultrasound and cold laser therapy, and exercise programs. Manual manipulation is the most common treatment, consisting of a chiropractor adjusting your spine or other joints using their hands to apply controlled force. This action restores the joints natural movement and improves function. 

Manual Osteopathy 

Manual osteopathic practitioners focus on therapy to help reduce strains, stress, and dysfunction in all areas of the body. Specific conditions that manual osteopathy can help alleviate include back and neck pain, tension headaches and migraines, sports injuries or motor vehicle accident injuries, carpal tunnel, plantars fasciitis, digestive issues, stress, anxiety, and depression and so much more.

Taking a more holistic approach, they focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, and connective tissue as well as organs function as one unit. This aspect is what makes manual osteopathy so interesting, it acts on the musculoskeletal framework, which impacts many of the body's systems and organs rather than just one. Manual osteopathic practitioners manipulate alignment of muscles, bones, and joints, to help remove obstructions throughout the body which can help fluids such as blood and lymph flow easily.

When it comes to techniques, there are four common techniques that you might experience during a manual osteopathic treatment.  The first is visceral manipulation, which works on specifically your organs. It helps align organs to make sure that they're in the proper place which can help keep them functioning at their best. The next is advanced myofascial release. Overtime, depending on different health conditions, connective tissues in your body can become tight and tense. This type of therapy helps connective tissue in your body to relax and go back to its natural state. The third is osteoarticular manipulation. This type of therapy focuses on aligning the joints and bones of the body to help decrease pain and attention, and also increase Mobility. Finally, the fourth is craniosacral therapy. This type of therapy uses subtle, light touches to help align the skull and vertebrae at the bottom of your spine.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapists use soft and deep tissue manual therapy to help relieve muscle tension and stress. Generally, massage therapists will press, rub, and strategically manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body as treatment. All those specific techniques depend on the practitioner, you will often see massage therapists use their hands and fingers as primary schools, but you might also see them use their forearms and elbows.  The focus of Massage Therapy is to Target Pacific myofascial trigger points, or muscle “knots.” 

Massage therapy can be used for a variety of health and wellness-related purposes. The most common is to relieve pain, but it can also be used to rehabilitate sports injuries, and also interestingly to reduce stress, increase relaxation, address anxiety and depression, and help with overall wellness. Massage therapy can also be used as a preventative therapy to help prevent pain and injury, or help with performance improvement by increasing blood circulation. 

Looking for a physiotherapist, chiropractor manual osteopathic practitioner, or massage therapist that fits your unique needs? Download the PromptHealth app today on iOS or Android.