Mobilisation and manipulation, as the names suggest, both involve movement of the joints to achieve the desired results.
• Mobilisation involves small amplitude oscillatory movements on the joints of the human body to stretch tight structures, with the aim of increasing joint mobility and decreasing pain.
• A mobilisation becomes a manipulation when there is a larger amplitude oscillatory movement applied to the joints of the human body (a high velocity thrust) usually resulting in clicks, cracks or a popping sound.
• The clicks or cracks associated with manipulation were once thought to be the bones moving back into place. However, current research suggests instead that the clicking and cracking is caused by the release of pressure internally.
• Pockets of air form within the fluid of the joint. When manipulation is performed a cavitation occurs, which is a process where the bubble in the liquid rapidly collapses producing a shock wave i.e. a popping or cracking noise. This releases pressure within the joint.
• Mobilisations and manipulations are predominantly used in the treatment of spinal or joint pain and stiffness.
• Effects of manipulation have been shown to include the relief of musculo-skeletal pain, increased range of joint motion, increased pain tolerance and increased muscular strength.
• Both techniques, if performed by an experienced practitioner are very safe, with complications being extremely rare.