Mobilization, manipulation, and massage

Mar 27, 2018 by



There are three distinguished forms of manual therapy: mobilization, manipulation, and massage. These forms will help improve mobility in restricted areas such as joints, connective tissues, or skeletal muscles. As with any treatment, using these forms in conjunction with each other can deliver more synergy than using only one. But, what is the difference between mobilization, manipulation, and massage? Continue reading to find out!


Mobilization by definition is to make something moveable. In manual therapy, mobilization is a careful process of stretching soft-tissue and joints to improve elasticity. Mobilization is used to relieve joint stiffness and pain. The goal is to reach normal, pain-free movement. Often, these stretches are small, gentle, and rhythmic. Thus, it is usually the first form to be used for treating joint and soft-tissue problems.


Manipulation is a more intense version of mobilization because swift thrusts are performed on the patient and is often accompanied by an audible popping sound from the release of pressure. This form is used to adjust your joints and it is frequently done on the neck and back. The goal is to take pressure off sensitive nerves or tissue, restore blood flow, increase range of motion, and promote the release of endorphins that act as natural painkillers.


Massage can relax muscle tissue, decrease nerve compression, increase range of motion, and improve circulation as well. This form mobilizes soft-tissue such as muscles, ligaments, or tendons. Massage is focused on rubbing and kneading soft-tissue without changing joint position, whereas mobilization and manipulation concentrates on moving hard-tissues.


All three forms can be used in conjunction with each other because muscles and joints rely on each other for movement and power. As well, to perform these treatments, all three forms require hands-on involvement. In the end, the overall goal of each form is the same: to provide relief.


Related Resources



Difference Between Manipulation, Mobilisation And Massage – Treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2018, from


How Can Massage Help My Health and Wellbeing? (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2018, from


Manual therapy. (2018, March 06). Retrieved March 14, 2018, from


Mobilisation, manipulation and massage – what is the difference? – The Physiotherapy Partners Blog. (2017, February 16). Retrieved March 14, 2018, from


Spinal Manipulation. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2018, from


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