Manual Forces Applied During Posterior-to-Anterior Spinal Mobilization: A Review of the Evidence

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Abstract

Objective

The objective of this review was to evaluate the evidence for the consistency of force application by manual therapists when carrying out posterior-to-anterior (PA) mobilization techniques, including the factors that influence the application and measurement of mobilization forces.

Methods

Studies were identified by searching 6 electronic databases up to April 2005, screening the reference lists of retrieved articles, and contacting experts by e-mail. Relevant articles were defined as those that described the measurement of forces applied during spinal mobilization or discussed the reliability of measurement of manual forces.

Results

Twenty studies described the quantitative measurement of applied force during a PA mobilization technique, with most focusing on the lumbar spine. When defined by magnitude, frequency, amplitude, and displacement, PA mobilization forces are extremely variable among clinicians applying the same manual technique. Variability may be attributed to differences in techniques, measurement or reporting procedures, or variations between therapists or between patients.

Conclusions

The inconsistency in manual force application during PA spinal mobilization in existing studies suggests that further studies are needed to improve the clinical standardization of manual force application. Future research on mobilization should include forces applied to the cervical and thoracic spines in addition to the lumbar spine while thoroughly describing force parameters and measurement methods to facilitate comparison between studies.

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