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Physiological Impact of Joint Mobilisation in Athletes

  • 10 Pages
  • Published On: 08-12-2023

The joint mobilisation is a manual therapy in which the therapist applies brief stretching of 30 or lower by using traction and gliding along the surface of the joint. The technique is used for not only restoring motion but also creating neurophysiological impact which acts in reducing the spams and pain in the macules caused due to injury (Roquilly et al., 2020). In this assignment, the physiological impact regarding joint mobilisation for managing spinal pain in an athlete is to be discussed. In this context, the physiological impact such as mechanical, neurophysiological, reflexive and placebo is to be focused and discussed in the study.

Physiological impact of joint mobilisation technique for managing injured athlete with spinal pain
Mechanical effect

In athletes, spinal pain is common due to injury or extensive physical activity in the sports. The use of joint mobilisation is mostly used in overcoming the spinal pain in the athletes caused by injury pf extensive exercise (Moreno Catalá et al., 2018). As mentioned by Ikeda et al. (2019), mechanical impact of joint mobilisation for resolving spinal injury relate to restoring the normal mobility of the spinal joint or the joints ability in performing range of motion that has been blocked due to the pain in the spines out of the injury. The process involves creating mobility and flexibility of capsular tissues and others like tendons and ligaments present in the spine (Nakamaru et al., 2019). This is because following injury and immobilisation, the shortening of the soft tissue occur as a result of the damage of the muscle fibres that limits the overall mobility of the joints.

In order to restore its normal mobility, adequate force is required to be applied to the soft tissues so that mechanical effect is created on them. This is because the pulling, squeezing, pressing, stretching and other on the tissue creates compression and extension on them (mechanical effect) and thereby distort the excitable as well as non-excitable tissues in the muscles to make it get gradually relaxed which later leads to enhanced mobility (Anggiat et al., 2020). As argued by Maxwell et al. (2020), higher grade of joint mobilisation can create any joint mobility back to normal. This is because it helps in restoring the relative amount of play required in making movement of restricted joints back to normal. Therefore, in case of the athlete, high joint mobilisation is required to create mechanical effect in restoring the individual’s joint mobility that has been restricted by pain and spam in the spinal muscles.

In contrast, the study by Bond et al. (2020) mentions that mechanical effect in joint mobilisation technique includes freeing or release of the meniscoid entrapment of the facet joint in the spinal area in case of spinal injury. The meniscoid entrapment mainly includes locking of a facet joint caused by its entrapment in a groove which is formed in the articular cartilage or developed by piece of meniscus in the formed groove in the articular cartilage or broken free piece pf meniscus that has formed a loose body which is entrapped. The development of the meniscus is considered to cause extreme pain in the spine leading to dysfunction in joints (Bond et al., 2020). However, the grapping or isometric movement which laterally pulls the facet is able to theoretically dislodge the impingement which can provide immediate relief from pain and enhanced movement of the joints (Aoyagi et al., 2019). Thus, it can be considered as another way in which joint mobilisation works to provide relief to the athlete from the spinal pain and ensures increased and normal joint movement.


The implication of joint mobilisation and manipulation creates both distal a well as local neurophysiological impact. The effects are mainly enhanced when spine is the region on which joint manipulation or mobilisation is executed (Gyer et al., 2019). In this case, it is seen that spine is the focused centre on which neurophysiological effect of joint mobilisation is to be discussed and understood due to which it allows effective determination of the occurring effects through the mobilisation. The spinal tissues are soft and highly innervated which may provide higher degree of afferent input to be made in the central nervous system. In this system, the input is seen to occur from different multiple sources like type I and II mechano-receptors and free endings of nerve present in the joints of the cervical spinal facet and muscle spindles of the cervical spine. In the remainder of the spine, similar mechanism is seen but the number of nerves ending present may of less consistent and lower at the lower level in the spine than the upper levels (Wirth et al., 2019). The joint mobilisation or movement is able to stimulate these receptors and cause input in the central nervous system. These receptors of the nerve terminate in the end of the spinal synapse present in the ventral and dorsal horn leading to signal the nociceptive as well as proprioceptive receptors to act according to information (Gyer et al., 2019).

The human anatomy mentions that periaqueductal gray area present in the midbrain is the key control area for mediating endogenous analgesia (Bialosky et al., 2018). The endogenous analgesia is the pathway that originates from the brainstem and terminates in the spinal cord to inhibit the spinal nociceptive processing. The neurotransmitters which are released by system mainly includes endogenous monoamines and opioids that act to lower pain (Romero et al., 2021). The periaqueductal gray area also acts in coordination with complex systematic network including autonomous nervous system, nociceptive system and the motor system and also has seen projection of type I and II mechanoreceptors from muscles, joints and tendons of the spine (Sluka et al., 2020). The manipulation of the sympathetic response caused by joint mobilisation technique causes a neurophysiological response to the manipulation of the spine through mechanoreceptors. The effect causes stimulation of the descending pain-inhibitor system present extending from the midbrain to the spinal cord in releasing endogenous opioids and others in relaxing the pain and enhance movement (Enriquez, 2019).

In contrast, the study by Corso et al. (2019) mentions that neurophysiological effect of joint mobilisation technique may also involve changes in the activation pattern of the muscles which causes the motor system to be inhibited. The joint mobilisation ability cause inhibition of the muscles depending on the technique used, nature and location of pain as well as the muscles to be targeted during the technique. The neurophysiological impact seen with performing of the mobilisation is enhanced facilitation of deeper and more local muscles which assist in controlling neuromuscular system in the area that is ideal in inhibiting the further superficial global muscles responsible for causing pain because of increased guarding of the involved segments and joints (Corso et al., 2019).


The reflex is the essential part of physiological action and their proper management help in enhanced management of nervous and joint functioning after the injury (Jun et al., 2020). In joint mobilisation, the muscle spindle is excited that results an impulse to be transferred immediately from the brain to the muscle to avoid increased contraction for protecting it to be forcefully extended beyond its normal span (Nim et al., 2020). The small amplitude movement initiated in the beginning of the reflex creates gentle oscillation which leads the brain to signal the muscles in making small amplitude movement to develop easiness. The gentle oscillation created leads to create relaxing impact on the shortened muscles to extend gradually (Nim et al., 2020). This is followed by making larger resistance-free movement and in the grade V oscillation small amplitude followed by high velocity is provided in the end of the motion caused during mobilisation. The thrust creates a short arc at the end of the range of motion leading the individual to fully stretch the joint in the end (Nim et al., 2020). During joint mobilisation, the patient is required to remain in relaxed position so that no additional interference in muscle or joint stiffens is faced in performing the joint mobilisation technique (Nim et al., 2020).

The joint mobilisation may act in managing pain in the joint of the people by promoting effective reciprocal inhibition (Jun et al., 2020). This is because joints are controlled by two set of opposing muscles that are extensors and flexors that are required to work synchronously. In case a muscle or joint is stretched through mobilisation, the stretch reflex is activated in which the opposing muscle group is inhibited to avoid it from working negatively against the contraction of the homonymous muscle (Jun et al., 2020). The inhibition is to be accomplished through the joint mobilisation by instigating the inhibitory neuron present in the spinal cord (Jun et al., 2020). The neuron mainly has one branch innervated in the alpha motor neuron which causes the contraction of the homonymous muscle to produce enhanced behavioural reflex. The other branch is seen to be innervated in the inhibitory interneuron that innervates the alpha motor neuron synapsing into the opposite muscle. The inhibition of the neuron reached through joint mobilisation leads to prevent the opposing firing of motor neuron and thereby reduces the contraction ability of the opposing muscles (Jun et al., 2020). This reciprocal inhibition is to be supported with the help of the joint mobilisation technique so that all the existing muscles work together effectively to ensure enhanced and normal movement (Jun et al., 2020).


The placebo response is mentioned as one form of physiological occurrence which is accompanied by development of specified neurophysiological responses. The placebo response is mentioned to occur in lowering pain in the spines and other areas by acting from the supraspinal structure to decrease pain and functional MRI mentions that specific regions of the brain are involved in causing the placebo hypoalgesia for allowing individuals to make free movement by overcoming pain (Navarro-Santana et al., 2020). The study by Pfluegler et al. (2020) mentions that placebo-related hypoalgesia seen through joint mobilisation technique is related with different response from different regions of the brain that are related to pain emotion, modulation and appraisal of cognition. In placebo effect, both the reward system as well as the opioid system in the brain are involved (Pfluegler et al., 2020).

The placebo-related hypoalgesia seen in joint mobilisation technique may be enhanced through a learning and condition effect. In this effect, the person is usually conditioned to get relief from a pain in the spine or other areas on use of certain joint mobilisation technique that has been learned by them to be effective without letting them know it has not been given or is not currently effective in their situation. However, it would be seen that they would in any way react to have lost pain and show enhanced mobilisation out of the conditioned learning (Honoré et al., 2020). In contrast, the other placebo effect in joint mobilisation may be received by the individual is dependent on what they expect to happen (Evers et al., 2021). However, the study of Colloca et al. (2020) aimed to determine whether prior therapeutic experience or expectation rating are involved in placebo effects for pain perception. For this purpose, they used two distinctive levels of tailored painful stimulation in reinforcing expectation and create a hypoalgesia effect. The findings of the study mentioned that participants with pain expressed placebo effects that are mediated by prior experiences in therapy and not by expectations. Thus, it indicates that the therapeutic history of the athlete to be provided joint mobilisation is to be taken to determine the specific utility of techniques in the process which could effectively and easily ensure pain relief in them.

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The above discussion mentions that psychological effect of joint mobilisation in managing injured spine of the athlete to help the individual overcome pain includes following ways such as mechanical, neurophysiological, reflexive and placebo. The mechanical impact mainly focuses on restoring normal mobility of the joint by creating flexibility of the shortened ligament and tends in the affected area of the athlete. The neurophysiological effect include manipulation of the neuroreceptors and neurons to enhance their ability to move by avoiding pain. The reflexive effect includes focusing on relaxing the physical reflexes of the joints to help the athlete gradually develop normal movement. The placebo effect is that proper therapeutic experience and learning condition regarding joint mobilisation is seen to create psychological impact on the athlete to accept the treatment and show hindered reflexes by overcoming pain.


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