Manipulation, Mobilization, and Massage: Knowing the Difference

Manipulation, Mobilization, and Massage: Knowing the Difference


Numerous chiropractic treatments have been proven to be effective at addressing back, neck, shoulder, and sciatic pain. Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) in particular focuses on individualized treatment plans, tailored to create long-term results for every patient. This means that there is no “one size fits all” approach to chiropractic – however there are a baseline set of tools that every chiropractor can use to achieve personalized results, including manipulation, mobilization, and massage.

Experts, like the friendly and professional team from Posture Works in Denver, CO and San Francisco, CA, understand the different benefits of these three chiropractic approaches and how to best leverage them for desired results. Every day, we’re assisting patients in mitigating pain, restoring range of movement, and much more.


Spinal manipulation is the core of any chiropractic adjustment program. Manipulation of vertebral discs enables them to be physically repositioned, to help create the ideal spinal posture. More importantly, however, manipulation is the first and best way to alleviate restrictions to nerve signals and blood flow caused by shifting vertebrae.

Manipulation addresses this problem through the manual realignment of vertebrae, which is key to restoring nervous system function and blood flow. Movement of discs is accomplished through the twisting of the neck and back, along with methods like drop adjustments or traction. This is typically followed by pops or cracks: perhaps the most recognizable aspect of manipulative adjustment.


Mobilization is different from manipulation by way of application. The goal here isn’t to necessarily shift vertebral discs. Instead, mobilization is a series of gentle, passive movements meant to restore range of movement and relieve pressure. It’s not be confused with massage, either – there’s no rubbing or kneading; just straight, purposeful, fluid movements to mobilize the spine.

Different levels of pressure are used depending on the patient’s condition. These are applied at different spots on every misaligned vertebra. This is a gradual process, maximizing comfort and gentle touch, making it suitable for older patients and those suffering from the likes of osteoporosis, arthritis, and other frailty conditions.


Massage is another common chiropractic treatment used to relieve stress and tension, while increasing blood flow. This includes the use of soft touch on muscles, ligaments, and joints. Unlike mobilization and spinal manipulation, massage focuses on soft tissue rehabilitation.

Putting them all together

Which combination of these tools a chiropractor uses depends on your condition. Your chiropractor will develop a specific treatment plan that pinpoints your particular pain and assesses how to best approach it.

Chiropractic is all about addressing the root of the problem to enhance long-term health through natural, holistic treatments. Any of these may be combined with complementary treatments like physical therapy or nutrition consulting.

If you’re ready to tackle a chronic pain problem, a chiropractor can be a key partner in restoring health. The Posture Works teams in San Francisco, CA and Denver, CO have expertise in manipulation, mobilization, and massage, and know how to combine them for best results. Contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll explain more about how each technique plays a role in our individualized Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) treatment approach.

Chiropractic BioPhysics, or CBP, is one of the most scientific, researched, and results-oriented corrective care techniques. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health, eliminating nerve interference and addressing the source of pain, fatigue, and disease. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is gentle, painless, and non-invasive.