Joints are points in the body where two bones meet. They are surrounded by soft tissue, which is susceptible to injury or disease. Joint mobilization is a physical therapy technique designed to relieve pain and muscle spasms, release tension and improve flexibility in a joint. By increasing the client’s awareness of the correct position and movement of a joint and simulating smooth joint function, joint mobilization improves range of motion and mobility.
Using small, passive movements, a physical therapist manually moves a joint, gently working it through a natural level of resistance. These motions stretch and strengthen the tissue surrounding the bone, which helps reduce pain and increase range of motion.
Every joint is classified on a five-grade scale for range of motion. Grades I and II are used predominantly to reduce pain and stiffness. Grades III through V are used primarily to increase mobility and joint play.
Joint mobilization should not be confused with joint manipulation, a similar manual technique for strengthening joints. With joint manipulation, the physical therapist applies a forceful thrust to the joint movement, which stretches the tissue and restores joint play.