Joint Mobilizations…Not Just Cirque du Soleil

By March 5, 2013Pain Info, Blog

Joint Mobilizations…Not Just Cirque du Soleil

Written by Arny Warkentin

Joint mobilizations are one of many tools massage therapists are trained to use to restore full, pain free range of motion.

A mobilization is defined as the “passive, skilled manual therapy techniques applied to joints and related soft tissues at varying speeds and amplitudes using physiological or accessory motions for therapeutic purposes” (Kisner, 2007). Passive means that the client is doing no work during the technique. Accessory motions are small movements that occurs within a joint to facilitate full range of motion. Varying speeds and amplitudes   means mobilizations can vary from long sustained holds, to quick, little rhythmic contractions. As Massage Therapists, we are not allowed to perform a grade five oscillation, which is the high velocity thrust that chiropractors often perform. The grades up to this point are within our scope and what we are trained to perform.

Indications for joint mobilizations

  • Painful joints
  • Muscle guarding
  • Muscle spasm
  • Joint hypomobility
  • Positional faults
  • Subluxations (partial joint dislocation)
  • Progressive limitation
  • Functional immobility

Joint mobilizations are not to be performed with

  • Joint hypermobility
  • Joint effusion (swelling within the joint capsule)
  • Inflammation

Effects of joint mobilizations

  • Increase nutrition to joint by moving synovial fluid
  • Maintaining joint strength and extensibility
  • Increase proprioceptive feedback (ability to recognize where your joint is and what position it is in without looking at it)
  • Decrease pain
  • Decrease muscle guarding/spasms
  • Increase joint range of motion

Hopefully this gives you a better idea of what joint mobilizations are and why we, as Massage Therapists, would suggest performing such a technique. Often this technique can be so subtle that you would never guess the true intention or give it a second thought.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me at:


Kisner, C., Colby L. (2007). Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques. Philadelphia: Margaret Biblis.

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