SUMMARY. Following injury, the ability of soft tissue to tolerate the demands of functional loading decreases. A major part of the management of soft tissue dysfunction lies in promoting soft tissue adaptation to restore the tissue's ability to cope with functional loading. Specific soft tissue mobilization (SSTM) uses specific, graded and progressive application of force by the use of physiological, accessory or combined techniques either to promote collagen synthesis, orientation and bonding in the early stages of the healing process, or to promote changes in the viscoelastic response of the tissue in the later stages of healing. SSTM should be applied in combination with rehabilitation regimes to restore the kinetic control of the tissue. The principles of SSTM are reviewed with regard to the general principles of treating soft tissue dysfunction and areas identified for further research into this field. Copyright 1998 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.