Guest Post: Manual Therapy and Cadavers | Modern Manual Therapy Blog

Guest Post: Manual Therapy and Cadavers

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Today's guest post is from Dr. John Rusin, who recently gained access to a cadaver lab. I have always wanted to go back to a gross anatomy lab after becoming a PT, it would be so much different than trying to memorize everything after see it in action and working with the anatomy and physiology daily!

Note, even though I do not believe in ARTs hyper aggressive fascial deformation protocols, I still think it's interesting to see cadavers from a manual therapy standpoint and still use many similar techniques I learned from IPA but not perform them all pain free, which you'll see an example of in Wednesday's post. Here's John's post.


-The body is an amazing phenomenon that exhibits some of the most complex bio-engineering this world has ever seen. Studying the human body at its most primitive state is a rare opportunity that yields a deeper understanding of both movement and function.

-The cadaver’s carefully dissected presentation provides the ultimate learning opportunity to learn and master strategic intricacies of manual soft tissue treatment, along with countless other hands on treatment techniques.

-Remember, manual therapy is hugely detail oriented. The smallest variances and adjustments in your touch, location and force have the ability to exponentially enhance your results as a rehabilitation professional.


The human body is a truly amazing phenomenon. For those of us who have been privileged enough to study the body at it’s most natural state, the gross anatomy cadaver, we can appreciate the absolute amazing complexity, yet simple structures and functions.

Manual therapies are taught each day at universities around the world, along with many other outlets of continuing education coursework. The most efficient way to master the art of fine manual touch is to deeply understand the nature and structure of each specific soft tissue in the human body.

Combining the unparalleled experience and expertise of gross anatomy dissections with the implementation of manual therapeutic modalities creates the perfect synergistic learning environment. Together, these two aspects of education will create the future of hands on therapy.


If you're a Certified Active Release Techniques provider, or other type soft tissue doctor, the idea of another protocol caught on tape is less than exhilarating. What makes these next few videos special is the subject. Thanks to the countless courageous people who donate their bodies to science after their death, we were able to shoot some amazing footage at my alma mater, Daemen College, located in Amherst, New York.

Each cadaver was carefully dissected, leaving the soft tissue and contractile tissues largely in tact. This cadaver’s presentation provides the ultimate learning opportunity to view strategic intricacies of manual soft tissue treatment. Not only can you clearly see exact hand placement on structures, but can also enhance your directional forces through viewing the fiber orientation of each contractile tissue. Enjoy the Active Release Techniques tutorial on a few of the systems most effective protocols.





If you’re a clinician, get out there and use the soft tissue techniques taught in these videos for the greater good of your patients and clients. Manual soft tissue treatments can be a game changer in terms of increasing your efficiency in treatment, and streamlining the total duration of patient care.

Remember, manual therapy is hugely detail oriented. The smallest variances and adjustments in your touch, location and force have the ability to exponentially enhance your results as a rehabilitation professional. Continuing to learn from the best resources available today will help you grow as a practitioner, but more importantly, will help more patients achieve their goals more quickly.

If you were intrigued by the use of the cadavers in combination with Active Release Techniques specific manual therapy, I would love to hear your thoughts. Stay tuned for more protocols that you can incorporate instantly into your practice.

Thanks for the post John, look for an example of my pain free alternative "release" for the Pec Minor on Wedneday... Keeping it Eclectic...


  1. Evan RaftopoulosJune 9, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    Hi Erson and John.

    I have to disagree with the idea that cadaver dissection offers us with an improved understanding of movement/function and from a manual therapy perspective. Based on the manual therapy and pain medicine literature, my experience as a clinician helping people in pain almost daily, and after spending many hours in cadaver labs, I have arrived to the conclusion that studying cadavers tells us very little about living organisms, especially in the context of pain medicine and physical rehabilitation. Sure we get an idea of the apparatus, but we do not need extensive cadaver dissection classes to understand that. What is also largely misleading is the the practice of manual therapy on cadavers. That's a bit ridiculous, don't you think?

    I'd like to share few quotes from the late Max Zusman during a presentation for a manual therapy fellowship program in Greece

    " Based on current evidence, clinical effects of MT seem to be mainly due neurological rather than mechanical mechanisms."

    "Very clear that no studies have shown that any passive movement procedures produce any lasting change in tissue length, position, shape, or content. "

    "In terms of the clinical process (MT) research findings suggest
    -mobilization level - made no difference
    -selection of technique - made no difference (end range technique or non end range no difference)
    -Amplitude - no difference to outcomes
    - end feel -not important, same outcome
    - perceived stiffness present or not, made no difference, no difference in terms of pain relief outcome"

    "SAB Mechanical model cannot explain pain relief in anatomically relevant level."

    "Studies have shown that interrater reliability is not very good for palpation and detection of “problematic” levels."

    "Forces too brief and small readily dissipated to change tissue structure, lack accuracy ( Bialosky et al 2009, Threlkeld 1992, Chaudhry et al 2008, Ross et all 2004)"

    Evan Raftopoulos,PT

  2. Hi Evan, more assumptions and less homework. I already believe everything you just posted. I just thought others would find it interesting as most still believe in mechanical deformation and mechanisms behind manual therapy. I reference Bialosky in all my seminars. I knew the post would set the bees buzzing and saw all the extra traffic, thanks!

  3. Hi Erson, based on your introductory paragraph, it doesn’t seem that you agree with my points about the usefulness of studying cadavers.

    You say
    “I still think it's interesting to see cadavers from a manual therapy standpoint and still use many similar techniques I learned from IPA but not perform them all pain free,”

    What is your point here?

  4. The point is I find it interesting you do not, I'm not into endless pointless debate as no one wins or ever convinces anyone else on the internet.

  5. Evan RaftopoulosJune 11, 2014 at 6:17 PM

    Oh I agree, but in my mind it's not about winning or convincing anyone, and I'm not into pointless debate either. I was just sharing some thoughts related to your blog post that I think are important. In the context of manual therapy, can I ask as to why you find cadaver studies interesting? If you prefer not to answer that's fine with me.

  6. I find cadaver studies fascinating because it is the human body after all! Why wouldn't someone who works with the human body every day find it fascinating?

  7. Different strokes for different folks I guess. Thanks Bob

  8. In the context of manual therapy, they're not relevant, you're right. You know that, I know that... I would love for someone to prove manual techniques have more mechanical effects... I find them interesting because I love physiology and movement. For example, I could stay at Body Worlds all day. I also knew this post would be very popular, despite me disagreeing with the author's training and mechanisms behind manual therapy. I'm not sure if this will satisfy your questions. It's hard to see the context behind someone's text, as you come from a notoriously negative forum.

  9. Evan RaftopoulosJune 13, 2014 at 2:11 AM

    Thanks for clarifying. It wasn't clear based on your introductory paragraph. In my initial post I was also referring to the main author who either doesn't care/want to comment or is not aware of this discussion.

    (btw I don't agree with your description of Soma Simple, but let's not get into that again since we are both not interested in entering a futile discussion)