A manual therapist is a physical therapist that has a specialty in the posture and movement mechanisms. The posture and movement mechanisms consist of muscles, joints and nerves of the spine and limbs. When the joints do not function properly for even a short time, pain or movement limitations can develop. During the examination the therapist makes a distinction between joint, muscle, and nerve function. He or she will use specific tests to investigate these systems, and their interactions. The examination goes beyond the damaged joint since the surrounding body structures greatly influence each other.
The manual therapist aims to recover normal movement, or to stabilize excessive movement through training. The manual therapist also focuses on improving posture and movement patterns. To reach these goals the manual therapist uses a number of specific mobilization/manipulation techniques that can be applied to the joints. Usually a gentle pushing or pulling of specific body parts can be sufficient. Sometimes the manual therapist supplements these treatments with limited impulse techniques. Joints are moved with a quick impulse or jolt, which can sometimes release a crunching or crackling noise. People generally experience this as temporary unsettling, but not painful. Results are often immediately noticeable, with an improvement in mobility and a decrease in pain.