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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Information for students researching CAM topics

Manipulative & Body-Based Therapies


Manipulative and body-based practices focus primarily on the structures and systems of the body, including the bones and joints, soft tissues, and circulatory and lymphatic systems. Two commonly used therapies fall within this category:

  • Spinal Manipulation is practiced by health care professionals such as chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, naturopathic physicians, physical therapists, and some medical doctors. Practitioners perform spinal manipulation by using their hands or a device to apply a controlled force to a joint of the spine. The amount of force applied depends on the form of manipulation used. The goal of the treatment is to relieve pain and improve physical functioning. Spinal manipulation is among the treatment options used by people with low-back pain.
  • Massage Therapy encompasses many different techniques. In general, therapists press, rub, and otherwise manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. People use massage for a variety of health-related purposes, including to relieve pain, rehabilitate sports injuries, reduce stress, increase relaxation, address anxiety and depression, and aid general well-being.

Historical note: Spinal manipulation has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks and was incorporated into chiropractic and osteopathic medicine in the late 19th century. Massage therapy dates back thousands of years. References to massage appear in writings from ancient China, Japan, India, Arabic nations, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Spinal Manipulation (cc by 2.0) by The U.S. Army

Web Resourses


MedlinePlus Chiropractic - Authoritative and up-to-date information on chiropractic.

NCCIH: Massage Therapy Research