Advance with MUSC Health

Manual Physical Therapy: Understanding This Hands-On Approach to Pain Relief

Advance With MUSC Health
April 26, 2023
Darren Vance, DPT, OMT- C

Darren Vance, DPT, OMT- C of MUSC Health Florence Outpatient Rehabilitation Center discusses what manual physical therapy is and how it’s used to treat patients.

What is Manual Physical Therapy?

Orthopaedic manual physical therapy (OMPT) is an advanced form of physical therapy. The goal of OMPT is to reduce pain, restore function and improve mobility in patients with musculoskeletal problems such as joint pain, muscle strains and soft tissue injuries resulting from such things as arthritis, overuse, joint replacement, car accidents, and work-related and sports injuries.

OMPT Techniques

OMPT techniques include joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization and manual stretching.

  • Joint mobilization is a technique that involves moving the joints in a controlled manner to reduce pain, increase the range of motion and restore function.

  • Soft tissue mobilization uses various manual and instrument-assisted techniques to stretch and manipulate soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

  • Manual stretching involves applying controlled pressure to specific areas of the body to improve flexibility and mobility.

OMPT Treats a Variety of Conditions

OMPT can be used to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, including back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, knee pain, and ankle pain. It is particularly effective for patients who have not responded to other forms of treatment, such as medication or surgery.

One of the advantages of OMPT is that it is noninvasive and does not involve medication, injections or surgery. This makes it a safe and effective treatment option for many patients.

Additionally, OMPT can be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy, such as exercise and electrotherapy, to provide a comprehensive treatment approach.

Person using their hands for manual therapy on a patients shoulder

Frequently Asked Questions About Being an Occupational Manual Physical Therapist

I am often asked what exactly I do as a physical therapist with a doctorate degree (DPT) specializing in OMPT. As the name implies, part of what I do is use hands-on techniques to treat a patient, thus the term manual physical therapy.

Do you do massage? 
No. But soft tissue mobilization is part of my treatment. If you require extended soft tissue work, then you should see a registered massage therapist (RMT).

Are you like a chiropractor? 
Yes, partly because mobilization and sometimes manipulation of the spine and other joints are also part of my treatment.

Do you prescribe exercise? 
Yes, because specifically targeted exercises are an important way to keep yourself feeling better, both during and after physical therapy treatment.

If you feel you would benefit from OMPT, ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist who specializes and is certified in manual therapy.

If you would like more information about orthopedic manual physical therapy, please call me at 843-661-4360 or visit