This short review provides an important perspective on soft tissue manipulation/mobilization (STM) as a powerful and direct form of mechano therapy, which has significant implications in physical rehabilitation, disease prevention and health promotions. STM, e.g. therapeutic massage, whether administered by hand alone or with a rigid device, is a type of manual therapy frequently used by clinicians worldwide to address common musculoskeletal pain disorders. It is a type of mechano therapy which applies non-invasive mechanical stimuli to the surface of the body so as to influence molecular, cell and tissue structure and function via mechano transduction, ultimately leading to improved clinical outcomes.
A brief overview of mechano transduction is provided, with a focus on the ECM-integrin cytoskeleton pathway, and the impact of STM mechanical stimulus on different tissue types are considered in this article. On-going research is suggested to further validate STM as a viable, cost-effective treatment option in an aging population and the clinical relevance of STM is discussed. STM intervention should be approached as a prescription, a targeted and precise form of mechano therapy in which optimal dose pressures and frequencies are delivered to achieve desired outcomes and advance the field of soft tissue manual therapies.