What is Joint Mobilization?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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Joint mobilization is a medical technique that is used to increase the range of motion and mobility of a joint. It is a passive movement that is usually applied to an injured area of the body in order to promote healing. The technique is commonly used on the spine and in this case it is called spinal mobilization. There are five levels of motion of a joint during joint mobilization and each is used for a different purpose. The difference between mobilization and manipulation when it comes to joints is the speed in which the treatment is performed with mobilization being much slower.

Joint mobilization is usually performed by trained professional physical therapists as a certain level of skill is required to perform it effectively and safely. Any manipulation of the body’s musculoskeletal system has the potential to cause damage if it isn’t performed correctly. Usually mobilization treatment will focus on the practitioner applying a force to the joint which mimics the gliding movement that occurs during regular movement. Sometimes these forces are held for an extended period of time in order to stretch the target. Generally, manipulations are performed at a higher speed and with more intensity than joint mobilization.


The technique of joint mobilization is important to recover the range of motion of a joint that has been injured or damaged. For example, for someone to kick his or her leg out from a seated position there must be enough mobility in the knee joint. After an injury this range of motion may be reduced. Joint mobilization techniques are also sometimes used to reduce pain in someone with an existing injury.

Although joint mobilizations can be an effective and safe way of treating joint problems there is also some risk involved. For example, the joint should not undergo mobilization treatment if osteoarthritis is present. People with a tumor in the area of the joint should also not go through these sorts of treatments. Joint mobilizations should also not be performed by people who aren’t trained to do so as taking the joint to the maximum of its available range can cause additional problems if performed incorrectly.

The different grades of mobilization describe the amount of mobility in the joint. For example, Grade 1 status mobilizations are when the practitioner applies a passive movement which includes up to 25 percent of the available joint play. Grade 3, on the other hand, involves the bone moving to the end of its range. There are also grades which are applied to the oscillations, or repetitions, of a particular joint mobilization exercise.


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