Hand Therapy: Indications, Benefits, Techniques, and More

Previously, manual therapy (hand therapy) was considered traditional medicine. However, since 1990, it is an officially recognized WHO technique that is used in medicine. The main principle of therapy is the deep study of muscles, vertebrae, intervertebral discs, joints, ligaments using only hands. It allows eliminating pinched nerves, restoring mobility to the spine, and much more, which we will discuss later.

Hand Therapy_ Indications, Benefits, Techniques, and More

Hand therapy is based on the ancient eastern techniques of treating the spine. It is divided into subsections:

  • Techniques for developing soft tissues – muscles, skin, subcutaneous fat;
  • Joint technique;
  • Specific manipulations that come from osteopathy;
  • Body-oriented therapy – the doctor achieves maximum patient relaxation;
  • Work with the bones of the skull, sacrum, cervical spine;
  • Visceral therapy – the study of internal organs.

Tasks of hand therapy

Manual treatment of the spine is primarily aimed at restoring muscles and relieving pain. Such therapy increases the mobility of joints and soft tissues, and provides prevention of the aging of the body by increasing the range of movements. As a result, the muscle corset is strengthened, posture is improved, spinal deformities are eliminated or reduced. The problem of pinched nerves and blood vessels is being solved.

Hand therapy restores cerebral blood flow and eliminates headaches and fainting. When muscle tension is removed from the spine, its blood supply and correct anatomy are restored. This allows eliminating hernias, symptoms of osteochondrosis. Upon returning to the person the correct posture, his or her internal organs “fall into place”, which improves the general condition and allows treating a number of diseases associated with compression.

Techniques of a hand therapy

Manual therapy is a method of treatment only with hands. The technique has evolved over 150 years, so doctors have developed many techniques:

Manipulation techniques are not strong, short jerky movements that restore joint mobility in the sacrum and spine.
A mobilization technique is movements that contribute to the soft extension of the vertebrae and the inclination of the spine. As a result, edema passes, the joints acquire normal mobility, blood circulation is restored.
Soft technique – improves muscle tone, relieves pain, tension, heals ligaments. There are no sudden movements. Ligaments and muscles become more mobile.

We described the basic techniques, but there are still additional ones:

  • acupuncture;
  • acupressure;
  • craniosacral therapy;
  • myofascial release;
  • applied kinesiology;
  • Shiatsu;
  • lymphatic drainage.

Indications for hand therapy

These are any symptoms of osteochondrosis, back pain, muscle and bone pain, discomfort in the collar zone, in any parts of the spine, pain after injuries, contracture, scoliosis, kyphosis, flat feet, headaches, muscle-tonic syndrome, dizziness, protrusion, pinched nerve etc. Manual therapy is indicated for a sedentary lifestyle to prevent serious disorders and curvature of the spine.

Treatment of headaches

Manual therapists treat cervicogenic headache, that is, caused by disorders in the cervical spine, and tension pain. In people with sedentary work, vertebral blockage occurs when they stand in such a position that they cannot move normally. The answer to this is muscle strain at the site of the pathology. At first the neck hurts, and then the head hurts. This is called “pain of tension.” It can also be provoked by careless sudden movements, an uncomfortable position during sleep.

The doctor begins to work with the patient with a diagnosis. He or she finds out what exactly is functioning incorrectly and where is the focus of the problem. It can be ligaments, muscles, vertebrae. Radiography or MRI is needed to make a diagnosis. After this, a treatment technique is selected to normalize the condition.

Treatment of protrusions

With protrusions, a hand therapist:

  1. relieves muscle cramps. They occur when a vertebra that protrudes pinches a nerve root. When the spasmodic muscles relax, the pain almost completely disappears.
  2. stimulates metabolic processes in cartilage due to improved lymph and blood flow around the affected disc;
  3. stretches tendons and ligaments, increasing the mobility of the spine;
  4. regulates the protrusion. But only if it happened recently. If the disease is neglected, then the situation cannot be corrected with manual therapy methods.

The strength and technique of exposure are selected individually. For example, the patient may lie on his or her back, and the doctor, clicking on the ribs in certain places, increases the clearance between the vertebrae. Twisting, pressing and more sophisticated techniques may be used. The patient’s position may be on his/her back, on his/her side. If protrusion occurred in the cervical spine, one must act carefully and gently. The doctor stretches the spine more than twists.
Manual therapy activates the body’s own defenses. This gives the body the opportunity to cope with the problem on its own. This is the main difference between this technique and the conventional massage.

When the sciatic nerve is pinched

When the sciatic nerve is pinched, severe pain occurs, making it impossible to walk normally. Muscle cramps occur. Patients often simply lie on the bed without the ability to move. This is a serious and painful condition.

Manual therapy is very effective in this case. The doctor will eliminate cramping, relieve pain, increase or completely restore range of motion. Swelling and pathological fixation will go away, muscles and ligaments will return to a normal tone. Manual therapy is suitable for the elderly and pregnant, but in these cases the effect is more gentle.

Sometimes, to enhance the effect, you still need a classic massage. It is carried out in a single session along with manual therapy. Also, medical blockades are used to treat muscle spasms.

Treatment of scoliosis

Long-term medical practice shows excellent results in the treatment of scoliosis with manual therapy. The main goals, in this case, are to restore flexibility to the spine, stimulate weakened muscles, and remove functional blocks.

During the session, first stretching the spine is done, then pain zones, curvature are worked out. The main pressure falls on the extreme vertebrae, and then gradually the doctor moves to the center. Be sure to do the prescribed gymnastics after the sessions at home. This will fix the result. You usually need 10 sessions and one course every six months (for prevention).

A prerequisite is a thorough preliminary diagnosis. Otherwise, you can only harm and strengthen the unpleasant symptoms. If everything is done correctly, then the changes in the damaged areas of the spine will decrease, the pain will decrease or go away.

Treatment of osteochondrosis

With this disease, the effect on the body is complex. The main goal is to restore the correct shape to the spine, normalize metabolism and restore the tissue surrounding the spine. The main techniques are:

  • forced movements to repair joints;
  • relaxing massage to relieve tension and muscle pain;
  • traction to relieve spasms and normalize metabolic processes and blood circulation.

With osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, an improvement already occurs after the first session. After the full course, pain, tinnitus, dizziness go away, the mobility of the shoulders and spine is restored, and tension in the back is relieved.

This treatment method is chosen because it:

  • allows treating osteochondrosis of any parts of the spine;
  • is completely safe;
  • helps you avoid surgery and cancels medications;
  • is painless – only relaxation and comfort;
  • affects the body as a whole, strengthens, heals;
  • is very effective – the positive effect in most cases is achieved in a short period of time.

Treatment of hernia

A hernia is not only severe pain but also a decrease in muscle sensitivity, paralysis, spastic tetra- or paraparesis, disruption of the pelvic organs. With a hernia of the cervical spine, a person can be completely paralyzed. The risk group is the elderly, those with obesity or scoliosis, and hard workers.

Manual therapy is carried out by pressing on certain centers to restore the correct position of the intervertebral discs. As a result, pinched nerves are released, the sensitivity returns. With a hernia of the lumbar spine, as a result of manual therapy, the pelvic organs work normally again, the ability to walk returns, blockades are lifted.

The main positive properties of the technique:

  • Better blood circulation in the muscles, which now more effectively support the spine;
  • Cartilage is better fed by oxygen, collagen, and fluids;
  • Regeneration improves and the position of the spine is restored;
  • The metabolism in the body is normalized;
  • It makes it possible to avoid surgery, reduces the dose of drugs, or even allows you to abandon them;
  • Improvements come after the first session.

Treatment of kyphosis

Hand therapy is effective for moderate kyphosis. In this case, it resembles a massage. The doctor acts on the spine and its surrounding muscles so that the vertebrae, intervertebral discs, joints and soft tissues gradually “fall into place.” Sessions are usually held every other day.

Sometimes patients complain that it hurts in the area of ​​influence after the sessions. However, this is a good sign, which indicates that the movement of muscles and ligaments has begun – they are moving to take the correct position. After the course, the posture becomes smooth, the pain goes away.

Contraindications for manual therapy

Contraindications are divided into absolute (complete prohibition of treatment) and relative (expectant tactics).


  • any malignant tumors, especially on the spine;
  • any tuberculosis;
  • ankylosing spondylitis;
  • osteomyelitis;
  • 3-4 degree of instability of the vertebrae;
  • spinal cord stroke;
  • meningitis;
  • vertebral artery thrombosis;
  • mental disorders;
  • heart attack;
  • the last stages of osteoporosis, when the bones are very fragile.


  • fresh injury;
  • condition after spinal surgery;
  • fracture;
  • decompensated diseases of the internal organs.

Benefits and dangers of hand therapy

The fact that with the help of manual therapy it is possible to treat many diseases was already known in the 5th century BC.

The advantages of manual therapy are obvious: it can even treat chronic diseases, relieve pain, and heal the body as a whole. After a course of sessions, a person improves the quality of life, there is an emotional upsurge, and a desire to live and act. A hand therapist will relax muscles, improve metabolism, stimulate lymph and blood flow.

The disadvantage is that manual therapy is a subtle science. Literally one wrong move can lead to fatal consequences. Therefore, you need to choose a good doctor, with education, a special certificate and recommendations. You can choose one in Brooklyn clinic NYC.

Possible consequences of manual therapy

Some complications are the consequences of a doctor’s lack of professionalism. However, often uncomfortable sensations in the first days after sessions are considered the norm. Let’s take a closer look.

After the sessions, the back and head may hurt. This is normal. The back hurts because the doctor worked well for the ligaments and muscles, they change their position and recover. It takes 2-3 days for the structures to “fall into place.” For the period of treatment, you’d better limit physical activity and the overall load on the body. You can do exercise therapy or go for a massage.

A headache can occur because there is a restoration of blood vessels after the procedure. When the course ends, it will no longer bother you. This reaction occurs in one patient per thousand. If the symptom is pronounced and interferes with a normal life, you need to see a doctor.
In rare cases, hand therapy can cause increased body temperature. The reason is chronic inflammatory processes in the body, which exacerbate with manual exposure. To clarify the nature of this ailment, you’d better consult a therapist.

If the procedure is done by an unqualified doctor, it may also cause:

  • fractures of the vertebral processes;
  • rib fractures;
  • excessive mobility of the spine;
  • lack of improvement or deterioration;
  • ruptures of muscles, vertebral arteries, ligaments;
  • migraine;
  • back pain;
  • decreased vision.

Important! You can have no more than 15 sessions of hand therapy per year.

Things you should NOT do after hand therapy and general recommendations

To avoid negative consequences and get a better result, you should follow these recommendations:

  1. After the procedure, sit for 15 minutes, relax;
  2. Dress warmly after manual therapy, especially take care of your neck in the cold season. Temperature differences can provoke fainting;
  3. Be sure to tell your doctor if you feel a sharp pain in the area that was affected;
  4. You can’t visit the bathhouse, sauna, take a hot bath after a session;
  5. It is not recommended to drive a car after a session;
  6. You can’t make sudden movements or swing your arms wide after a session.

FAQ about hand therapy

A certified hand therapist Brooklyn NYC answers the most popular questions about manual therapy:

How often can I have manual therapy sessions?

It is advisable to have sessions no more than twice a week. However, it may be necessary to do the procedure every other day. The course may include from 3 to 15 sessions.

How long does a manual therapy session last?

Depending on individual characteristics, it lasts from 15 to 30 minutes.

Is it possible to have manual therapy during menstruation?

Conducting sessions is undesirable during menstruation. Any reflex effect during this period can be dangerous. When there is an effect on the nerve endings in the lumbar region and the spine as a whole, the vascular bed, responsible for supplying the pelvic organs, can change. This causes an excessive rush of blood.

Why do joints crackle with manual therapy?

This is due to water hammer of the synovial fluid on the wall of the capsule in which it is located. At this point, the patient feels pain relief because endorphins are released. Crunch is not a mandatory phenomenon and is not an indicator of the quality of a specialist’s work.