What Is Joint Mobilization?

Most people understand the global motions our joints perform. They know the joint moves in a certain direction. There are muscles, ligaments, and certain structures involved to allow this to happen. However, unknown to most, is the arthokinimatics of the joint. Each joint structure is different from the contact between two bones to the number of muscles acting on a joint. Within that joint are small accessory motions going on to allow the motion we see outside the body to occur. A physical therapist needs to identify the restrictions in order to improve function with the use of joint mobilization.

Following injury the joint can lose the ability to perform those smaller motions. The two motions in question are a “roll” and “slide”. Depending on the joint structure and function will determine which way the roll and slide occur. After injury these movements don’t always return or work based on damage and scar tissue. This can result in painful motion or limited motion entirely.

Joint mobilizations is a technique performed by a physical therapist to restore these accessory motions. A technique that is hard to do to one’s own body. Once these motions are restored one can start to stretch and strengthen the appropriate muscles to build upon the new found motion from the mobilizations. 

Dr. Tyler Kinch treating the shoulder of a patient with joint mobilization with is a manual technique to reduce pain and improve motion
Image of internal joint motion of fingers and how joint mobilization can help improve this function.