Joint mobilization is a treatment approach commonly used by physical therapists for the management of a variety of painful conditions. However, the clinical effectiveness when compared to placebo and the neurophysiological mechanism of action are not known. The purpose of this study was to establish that application of a manual therapy technique will produce antihyperalgesia in an animal model of joint inflammation and that the antihyperalgesia produced by joint mobilization depends on the time of treatment application. Capsaicin (0.2%, 50 microl) was injected into the lateral aspect of the left ankle joint and mechanical withdrawal threshold assessed before and after capsaicin injection in Sprague-Dawley rats. Joint mobilization of the ipsilateral knee joint was performed 2 h after capsaicin injection for a total of 3 min, 9 min or 15 min under halothane anaesthesia. Control groups included animals that received halothane for the same time as the group that received joint mobilization and those whose limbs were held for the same duration as the mobilization (no halothane). Capsaicin resulted in a decreased mechanical withdrawal threshold by 2 h after injection that was maintained through 4 h. Both 9 and 15 min of mobilization, but not 3 min of mobilization, increased the withdrawal threshold to mechanical stimuli to baseline values when compared with control groups. The antihyperalgesic effect of joint mobilization lasted 30 min. Thus, joint mobilization (9 or 15 min duration) produces a significant reversal of secondary mechanical hyperalgesia induced by intra-articular injection of capsaicin.
Copyright 2001 European Federation of Chapters of the International Association for the Study of Pain.