Manual therapy is a general term that includes anything that medical practitioners can do with their hands and can include anything from a medical massage to joint manipulations. While manual therapy vs. massage includes different techniques as well as purposes. The history of manual therapy in Europe dates back to 400 BCE, and today it includes a variety of techniques such as joint manipulations, mobilizations, myofascial trigger-point therapy, proprioceptive therapy, strain-conterstrain method, stabilization, traction, or such a complex constantly evolving stand-alone system as Functional Manual Therapy, which includes functional movement assessment, active treatment, and then reassessments. But in China, the history of manual therapy goes back to about 3000 BC, and the whole multitude of its techniques falls under the general term tui na, which also over that long time period developed into many similar as well as different schools of thought.
At the Advanced Holistic Center, our specialty is tui na (Chinese therapeutic massage), which can be used to treat many different conditions—almost as many as acupuncture can—and due to modern tendency toward integrative medicine, there is now such a thing as integrative manual therapy. Western methods of manual therapy have always been part of allopathic medicine, although physical therapy and osteopathic medicine integrated with the allopathic approach much smoother than chiropractic did; but then physical therapy appears to work well with the chiropractic approach. These manual therapy techniques comprise most of modern manual therapy, but at the same time there are many other methods of bodywork and manual therapy, some rich well-developed traditions originated in Asia.
While integration of tui na with modern medicine may appear challenging due to their enormous differences in traditions, because acupuncture has become increasingly wider accepted, it has also become part of integrative medicine. Acupuncture and tui na share the same traditional Chinese medical approach, and similar angles of integration that work for acupuncture should work for tui na. Also, similarly to physical therapy, tui na is often tightly connected to therapeutic exercises. Tui na is almost as flexible as acupuncture and can be used for treatment of many conditions. At the same time, while tui na includes cervical manual therapy (tui na or manual therapy for neck pain) and even includes bone-setting techniques, there is no Asian manual therapy for the cervical spine. Tui na’s goal is similar to that of acupuncture to influence the healing of the cervical spine by improving the blood and vital energy (qi) in the area, rather than manipulate the bones directly. A similar approach is true in the treatment of knee joints: the knee treatment is holistic rather than direct, because when the knee joint is inflamed, treating it directly with manual therapy can increase the inflammation and, consequently, the knee pain.
Manual therapy for low back pain is also treated holistically, so the body itself would heal the lower back pain. It is achieved through the stimulation of local and distal points. While some points decrease lower back pain, other points would help to balance the functions of internal organs and resolve low back pain indirectly. A similar approach is used for manual therapy for sciatica, where palpation of the painful area is crucial for diagnostic purposes, to identify the most painful points, which are then addressed in tui na treatment.
Manual therapy for shoulder pain in traditional Chinese medicine would address the shoulder more, but still the joint itself is not treated directly, but rather a stimulation of the points in the surrounding tissues and the points on the torso, ears, scalp, and/or extremities that can decrease shoulder pain. In the vast majority of tui na treatments, no matter what area is troubling the patient, visceral manual therapy is the central focus. As surprising as it may seem, but the pain in the knees or lower back, for example, can be a manifestation of organ imbalance (in this case, kidneys may be involved), and sometimes when patients receive such a holistic treatment, other health issues can decrease, such as insomnia or fatigue if kidneys are the culprit.
Asian manual therapy (tui na) involves massage-like techniques with particular emphasis on individual point stimulation. At the Advanced Holistic Center, however, we practice natural medicine, and rather than incorporating additional allopathic techniques, such as surgical procedures or pharmaceutical elements, for those people who are open/interested in energy work, we also offer craniosacral therapy, reiki, and/or polarity sessions. In traditional Chinese medicine, vital force or energy, also known as qi, plays a crucial part, and combining these methods works well for our patients. Craniosacral and polarity therapies include some bodywork, stretching techniques, and energy work, while reiki focuses more on energy flow.
Another great side effect of the holistic approach is that neck, lower back, knee, or any other kind of pain can be treated effectively even if the cause of the pain is unclear. Typically, results can be felt after 3 or 4 sessions, but more often than not, to achieve the best outcome, patients need about a dozen sessions. The pain usually either disappears and then returns or gradually becomes lesser in frequency and intensity, until it either vanishes or becomes bearable. While manual therapy in NYC and Miami is widely spread, the Advanced Holistic Center ensures that its location and work hours make it easy for its patients to take advantage of its highly skilled staff.