Neuromuscular Therapy

Neuromuscular TherapyNeuromuscular Therapy is a comprehensive approach to assessing muscular imbalances and restoring proper functional relationships in the neuromuscular system. Neuromuscular Therapy, a form of medical massage, or clinically relevant deep tissue massage, which recognizes the critical relationship between posture and biomechanics relative to proper function. It employs holistic clinical massage therapy techniques and patient education to reduce or eliminate pain to help restore postural balance, to mobilize tight myofascial restrictions, and optimize musculoskeletal function.

Muscles can develop “trigger points” – a hyper-irritable spot that is painful. The goal of neuromuscular therapy is to relieve the pain and any other dysfunction by having the therapist locate and deactivate those points by using varying amounts of pressure. Many times, pain relief and increased range of motion can be experienced immediately. Following the deactivation of the trigger point the therapist often will gently stretch the muscles to help “retrain” them – helping to prevent the pain and trigger point from reactivation.

What is Neuromuscular Therapy?

Neuromuscular therapy is a type of bodywork that reduces chronic pain and normalizes body posture by selectively loosening tight muscles and connective tissue.  First, the therapist consults with the client to get an understanding of their symptoms and concerns.  Then the client’s presenting posture is observed.  It is understood that muscles move bones, and that distortions in posture are a result of muscle imbalance. When posture is distorted, joints deteriorate prematurely, nerves become compressed, and circulation is impaired.  Tissues are deprived of vital nutrients.  Chronic pain often results.

A neuromuscular therapist develops an individualized strategy to restore the client’s healthy posture and reduce pain.  Overly tightened tissues are relaxed through the use of specifically applied manual therapy.

Neuromuscular therapy owes its success to the successful resolution of compensating factors, often distant from the site of the client’s presenting symptoms. Neuromuscular therapy is effective for many soft tissue pain problems including back and neck pain, headaches including migraines, hip and shoulder pain, numbness and tingling in the arms or legs, and the soft tissue aspects of fibromyalgia syndrome. It’s also quite effective at improving dysfunctional posture patterns that, if uncorrected, can cause eventual degeneration of the joints.  Neuromuscular therapy has also been clinically effective for a wide range of other related conditions.

Neuromuscular Therapy Principles

Postural Distortion: Imbalance in the muscular tonus system resulting in the movement of the body off the coronal (front to back) and mid-saggital (side to side) planes.

Biomechanical Disturbance: Imbalance in the musculoskeletal system resulting in faulty movement patterns.

Ischemia: “Tissues which suffer from lack of circulation. Ischemic tissues are areas so contracted that they restrict the flow of nutrition and oxygen into the muscle, and the removal of metabolic waste products from the area.” (As sited by Chaitow and Delany*), pain associated with fibromyalgia may be derived, in large part, from muscular ischemia. Chronic muscle tightness produces ischemia; ischemia produces pain.

*(Leon Chaitow, N.D., O.D., and Judith Walker DeLany, L.M.T., N.M.T., Clinical Application of Neuromuscular Techniques: Vol 1-Upper Body,Churchill Livingstone, Harcourt Publishers LImited 2000)

Trigger Points: Dr. Janet Travell, physician to President John F. Kenedy, coined the term “Trigger Point,” to refer to discrete areas of soft-tissue structures with low neurological activity that, when stimulated or stressed, transform into areas of high neurological activity with referred sensations to other parts of the body (the referral “target” areas).

Nerve Compression or Entrapment: Pressure on a nerve by a bone, cartilaginous structure, or a soft-tissue structure, which can produce a range of symptoms from numbness, tingling, thermal sensations, (called paresthesia), to overtly painful sensations and decrease in muscle function. Nerve compression and entrapment syndromes occur at the level of the spinal cord itself, but also “locally” through the peripheral nervous system, manifesting, for example, as a cold, numbed or “dead” feeling in the forearms, wrists or hands.

What are the limitations of Neuromuscular Therapy?

Limitations of neuromuscular therapy may include the inability to accurately detect and/or resolve perpetuating factors outside the scope of the soft tissue system.  Perpetuating factors, while not the cause of a particular condition, may prevent its resolution.

These factors may involve:

  • skeletal asymmetries (such as differences in anatomical leg length, which we do screen for but cannot confirm without consultation from a medical doctor or chiropractor)
  • ineffective mental and emotional habits
  • hormonal factors
  • nutritional factors
  • unidentified disease
  • lifestyle issues such as use of neural system stimulants (caffeine, tobacco) or depressants (alcohol), including prescribed medications
  • and ineffective movement habits such as holding a telephone on one ear, slouching, or repositioning the head to aid vision (for example when wearing bifocals)

When it appears that these factors are slowing down the therapeutic process, a neuromuscular therapist may suggest consultation with a health professional trained in the area involved.