Unraveling the Power of Neuromuscular Massage Therapy
In the realm of health and wellness, one particular therapeutic method stands out due to its effectiveness in managing and releasing both acute and chronic pain — Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT). This powerful form of massage therapy targets the body's soft tissues using precise techniques. The aim is to rectify muscular dysfunction, relieve discomfort, and enhance the overall physical well-being of individuals.
Understanding Neuromuscular Therapy
Neuromuscular Therapy is a specialized form of massage that focuses on the examination and treatment of the body's soft tissues. It incorporates a step-by-step process using hands-on techniques based on scientific understanding, guided by clinical evidence. This therapy is incredibly versatile and can be seamlessly integrated into various practice settings, including mainstream medicine, chiropractic care, athletic settings, and even multidisciplinary clinics.
This therapy addresses muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia layer by layer, from superficial to deep, on all possible sides and in all possible directions. The intent is to release trigger points and muscle tension, thereby enabling the body to heal independently and eliminate most muscular pain causes.
Factors That Influence Pain
Neuromuscular Therapy is grounded in six physiological factors that may cause or intensify pain in the body.
Ischemia occurs when there is a lack of blood supply to soft tissues, such as skeletal muscle. This leads to a deficiency of oxygen and nutrients reaching the cells, causing them to suffer and not function properly. In addition, the lack of blood flow also results in the accumulation of waste products, which further contributes to the damage. One of the notable symptoms of ischemia is the sensitivity to touch or local pain experienced in the affected area.
It's important to note that skeletal muscle ischemia can have serious implications for overall health and well-being. Therefore, it is crucial to seek proper treatment to address the underlying cause and restore blood flow to the affected tissues. By doing so, the body can regain its ability to function optimally and alleviate any discomfort caused by the lack of blood supply.
2. Trigger Points
Trigger points are an interesting phenomenon that can occur in the human body. These points are areas where nerves fire impulses rapidly, but what makes them even more fascinating is that they can cause pain in a different area of the body than the one that has been traumatized. This is known as referred sensation, and it can be quite perplexing.
One of the consequences of trigger points is that they can inhibit proper blood flow. When a trigger point is activated, the nerves send signals that disrupt the normal flow of blood. This can lead to a condition called ischemia, which is characterized by a lack of blood supply to an area of the body. Ischemia can cause even more pain and discomfort, exacerbating the initial trauma.
Trigger Points in the Sternocliedomastoid Muscle (Above)
Trigger points (TP's) can form anywhere in musles, tendons, ligaments, or organs but the X's show typical locations. Active trigger points always refer pain or another sensation to the areas shaded in red. The solid red areas indicate the locations of the most intense referrals while the dotted areas are typically less intense. The solid red area over the eye is also associated with migraine headaches so in this case, trigger point referrals are mimmicking a typical migraine arc.
3. Nerve Compression/ Entrapment
Nerve compression (pressure on nerves by osseous and other bonelike tissues, such as cartilage or discs) or entrapment (pressure on nerves by muscles and other soft tissues) occurs when a nerve is subjected to pressure from surrounding structures such as bone, cartilage, or soft tissue. This compression can restrict the nerve's ability to function properly, resulting in pain and discomfort. While bone and cartilage can contribute to nerve compression, it is important to recognize the significant role that soft tissues play in this condition. When soft tissues surrounding a nerve become irritated or inflamed, they can exert pressure on the nerve, exacerbating the pain and discomfort experienced by the individual.
In order to effectively address nerve compression or entrapment, it is crucial to not only focus on treating the symptoms but also target the underlying cause of the pain. Traditional approaches that solely focus on alleviating symptoms may provide temporary relief, but fail to effectively address the root of the issue. This is where neuromuscular therapy comes into play. By applying precise pressure and techniques, neuromuscular therapy aims to release tension and restore proper function to the affected nerves. This therapeutic approach not only provides pain relief but also addresses the underlying soft tissue dysfunction that contributes to nerve compression or entrapment.
Nerve Compression/ Entapment of the Piriformis Muscle
Piriformis syndrome is a condition in which the piriformis muscle compresses the sciatic nerve, causing pain, numbness, and tingling in the buttocks, hip, and leg. The exact cause of piriformis syndrome is not fully understood, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Overuse or strain of the piriformis muscle. This can happen from activities that require a lot of hip rotation, such as running, biking, or sitting for long periods of time.
- Injury to the piriformis muscle. This can happen from a fall, a car accident, or a sudden twisting motion of the hip.
- Anatomical variation of the sciatic nerve. In some people, the sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis muscle instead of underneath it. This can make the muscle more likely to compress the nerve.
Anatomical Variations of the Piriformis Muscle
Anatomic variations of the relationship between the piriformis muscle and sciatic nerve. Diagrams illustrate the six variants originally described by Beaton and Anson (a) An undivided nerve comes out below the piriformis muscle (normal course); (b) A divided sciatic nerve passing through and below the piriformis muscle; (c) A divided nerve passing above and below an undivided muscle; (d) An undivided sciatic nerve passing through the piriformis muscle; (e) A divided nerve passing through and above the muscle heads; (f ) An undivided nerve above undivided muscle.
4. Postural Distortion
Postural distortion is a common condition that occurs when there is an imbalance in the musculoskeletal system, causing the body to move off its normal planes. This can happen due to various factors such as poor posture, injury, or prolonged sitting. When the body tries to compensate for this imbalance and maintain structural balance, it often leads to muscle contraction, body distortion, and ultimately, pain. It is important to note that postural distortion is not a standalone problem; rather, it is a manifestation of the body's attempt to compensate for the imbalance and maintain structural balance.
To address postural distortion and provide pain relief, one effective treatment option is Neuromuscular Therapy This therapeutic approach focuses on identifying the underlying causes of postural distortion and aims to restore balance to the musculoskeletal system. By targeting specific areas of tension and muscle imbalances, Neuromuscular Therapy aims to re-educate the body and improve its ability to maintain proper alignment. This, in turn, can lead to significant pain relief and improved overall function.
Forward Head Posture is a Common Postural Distortion
When you tilt your head forward, the weight of your head increases significantly. For every inch your head tilts forward, the weight of your head increases by 10 pounds. This can put a lot of strain on your neck muscles and ligaments, and can lead to pain, stiffness, and headaches. Forward head posture can also cause other problems, such as:
- Degeneration of the cervical spine. The constant strain on the neck can lead to wear and tear on the discs and joints in the cervical spine. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and numbness in the neck, shoulders, and arms.
- Damage to the nerves. The pressure from forward head posture can also damage the nerves in the neck. This can lead to pain, numbness, and tingling in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.
- Changes in breathing. Forward head posture can also affect your breathing. When you tilt your head forward, the muscles in your chest and shoulders tighten, which can make it difficult to breathe deeply.
5. Nutritional Considerations
The Neuromuscular Therapy approach goes beyond just manual techniques; it also emphasizes the importance of nutrition in managing chronic pain. Nutritional considerations play a crucial role in the nervous system's response to pain, as certain nutrients can irritate and exacerbate pain sensations. By making mindful choices about what we eat, we can reduce pain sensitivities and promote overall healing.
When it comes to pain management through nutrition, it's essential to be aware of foods that can potentially cause pain and inflammation. These include artificial sweeteners, dairy products, dishes with gluten such as cereals, crackers, grains, pasta, and salad dressings. Additionally, high-sugar products like canned fruit, granola, juice, ketchup, soda, and protein bars can contribute to pain sensitivities. Other culprits are MSG and trans & saturated fats found in commercially baked items. Even caffeine can have an impact on pain perception.
Thankfully, certain foods can help reduce pain and promote healing. These foods are often rich in anti-inflammatory properties and can provide much-needed relief.
Whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa, are excellent choices as they are high in fiber and assist in reducing inflammation.
Beans, nuts, seeds, and pods are also great additions to an anti-inflammatory diet, as they are packed with essential nutrients and help to alleviate pain.
Fresh fruits, especially those rich in antioxidants, are beneficial for pain relief.
Fish and fowl, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Including olive oil in your diet can also aid in pain management, thanks to its healthful monounsaturated fats.
Certain spices, such as garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, rosemary, have natural pain-relieving properties.
Teas like chamomile or green tea can offer soothing relief due to their anti-inflammatory effects.
6. Emotional Wellness/Stress Management
Chronic pain, as an outward manifestation of internal distress, is not just a physical condition but deeply tied to our mental health and stress levels. The Neuromuscular Therapy approach, in its holistic method, seeks to address the root causes of this pain, delving into the intricate connections between physical discomfort and psychological turmoil. This therapy method understands that persistent stress can be a significant contributor to chronic pain conditions, with mental health playing a pivotal role in its progression or relief.
The emotional landscape of a person, their stress levels, fears, and unresolved emotions can significantly impact the severity and persistence of their pain. Therefore, Neuromuscular Therapy doesn't just focus on alleviating physical symptoms but also emphasizes stress relief methods and fostering improved mental health. It believes in treating the body as a whole, acknowledging that chronic pain is not merely physical but also an emotional battle, thus providing a comprehensive approach towards healing and wellbeing.
The Neuromuscular Massage Session
A session with a certified neuromuscular therapist usually lasts an hour. It involves a combination of pressure application using fingers, knuckles, or elbows and movement from the client to access hard-to-reach muscles within the body. The primary objective of these sessions is to allow muscles that are misfiring to relax and to strengthen weak muscles. After a few sessions of NMT, clients have noted decreased soreness and restoration of range of motion, flexibility, and strength.
While both therapies share some similarities, they cater to different needs. Deep tissue massage addresses muscle aches and pains associated with daily stress. It is typically administered on an on-off basis whenever a client decides they need some extra relaxation and rest. On the other hand, Neuromuscular Therapy is medical in nature. It is designed to correct pain and movement dysfunction by treating trigger points, muscle adhesions, and connective tissue patterns caused by a specific trauma, repetitive movements, or bad posture.
What Conditions Can Neuromuscular Therapy Treat?
- Low Back Pain
- Neck & Shoulder Pain
- Frozen Shoulder
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Tennis/Golf Elbow
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Runner's Knee
- Other Soft Tissue & Chronic Pain Related Conditions
Benefits Of Neuromuscular Massage Therapy
Neuromuscular massage therapy has numerous benefits for the body and mind:
- It reduces or eliminates muscle pain.
- It increases flexibility and strength.
- It enhances ease and efficiency of movement.
- It improves posture.
- It ensures balanced musculoskeletal and nervous systems.
- It improves blood circulation.
- It lowers body toxin levels.
- It boosts energy levels and vitality.
Neuromuscular Therapy: A Journey to Pain Relief
Neuromuscular therapy is a journey to pain relief and enhanced physical well-being. It leverages the power of massage to restore balance to the body's central nervous system and release trigger points causing pain and dysfunction.
With a deep understanding of the body's workings and where different pain originates, Neuromuscular therapists create an environment that promotes healing and pain relief. By releasing the pressure from trigger points, therapists can increase their accuracy to achieve faster results for their patients, build rapport, and foster a nurturing and healing relationship.
Ultimately, therapists can benefit majorly from learning Neuromuscular Therapy because it allows them to work smarter, not harder, to achieve reliable results. It is a potent tool in their arsenal, enabling them to help clients on their journey to pain relief and improved wellness.
If you're dealing with chronic pain or injury, consider incorporating Neuromuscular Therapy into your recovery routine. It's not just about managing pain but also about improving your range of motion, flexibility, and overall well-being. Neuromuscular Therapy is a testament to the incredible healing power of massage and its potential to transform lives.
Alan Jordan is a Certified Neuromuscular Therapist and a Level 1 Certified Neuromuscular Therapy Instructor through the Internataional Academy of Neuromuscular Therapy/ NMT Center, St. Petersburg, FL.