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Manual therapy can be defined as a clinical approach utilizing skilled, specific hands-on techniques, including but not limited to manipulation/mobilization, to diagnose and treat soft tissues and joint structures for the purpose of modulating pain; increasing range of motion (ROM); reducing or eliminating soft tissue inflammation; inducing relaxation; improving contractile and non-contractile tissue repair, extensibility, and/or stability; facilitating movement; and improving function. A consensus study of US chiropractors  defined manual therapy as "Procedures by which the hands directly contact the body to treat the articulations and/or soft tissues." Chiropractors perform 90% of manipulative procedures in North America.
In Western Europe, North America and Australasia, manual therapy is usually practiced by members of specific health care professions most commonly by chiropractors, but also in limited amount by medical and osteopathic physcians, physical therapists and veterinarians who apply these techniques to animals). However, some lay practitioners (not members of a structured profession), such as bonesetters also provide some forms of manual therapy.
A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine focused on who used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), what was used, and why it was used in the United States by adults age 18 years and over during 2002. According to this recent survey, manipulative therapy was the 3rd most commonly used NCCAM classification of CAM categories (10.9%) in the United States during 2002 ( table 4 on page 10) when all use of prayer was excluded. Consistent with previous studies, this study found that the majority of individuals (i.e., 54.9%) used CAM in conjunction with conventional medicine (page 6)
A number of professional peer-reviewed journals specialize in the dissemination of information associated with manual therapy. The Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy, Manual Therapy, and the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics are PubMed indexed journals that have provided readers with useful research on manual therapy for over 15 years. Peer reviewed information has improved the quality of information that is provided to practicing clinicians and has dispelled a number of myths commonly associated with manual therapy.
Styles of manual therapy
There are many different styles of manual therapy. It is a fundamental feature of ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and some forms of New Age alternative medicine as well as being used by mainstream medical practitioners. In one form or another it is probably as old as human culture itself and is a feature to some degree of therapeutic interactions in traditional cultures around the world.
- French HP, Brennan A, White B, Cusack T (2010). "Manual therapy for osteoarthritis of the hip or knee - a systematic review". Manual Therapy 16 (2): 109-17. PMID 21146444.
- Gatterman MI, Hansen DT. (1994). "Development of chiropractic nomenclature through consensus". J Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics 17 (5): 302–309.
- Karel Lewit (1999). Manipulative therapy in rehabilitation of the locomotor system. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 0-7506-2964-9.
- Weiselfish-Giammatteo, S., J. B. Kain, et al. (2005). Integrative manual therapy for the connective tissue system: myofascial release. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books.
- Kimberly Burnham, PhD (2007). Integrative Manual Therapy. West Hartford, CT: The Burnham Review.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists
- American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia
- European Association of Manual and Manipulative Therapies
- Evidence Based Medicine in the field of Traditional Medicine, Integrative Medicine and Manual Therapy
- International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapistskk:Мануальды терапия