Joint mobilization, a form of manipulative therapy, is a passive, manual therapy movement of a skeletal joint to restore motion and relieve pain. It is usually aimed at a ‘target’ synovial joint with the aim of achieving a therapeutic effect. When applied to the spine, it is known as spinal mobilization. These techniques are often used by chiropractors, osteopaths, occupational therapists, athletic trainers, and physical therapists.
Joint mobilization is classified by five ‘grades’ of motion, each of which describes the range of motion (ROM) of the target joint during the procedure. The different grades of mobilization are believed to produce selective activation of different mechanoreceptors in the joint. Small oscillatory motions (grade I and II) that do not stretch the capsular or other soft tissue structures are often used for reducing pain, while larger (grade III, IV, V) oscillatory or sustained motions are used to stretch structures and restore accessory or joint play motions. Movements are slow enough that the patient can voluntarily stop them.