Neuromuscular therapy was developed out of the pain of one man, Paul St. John. After having suffered three severe injuries, dealing with intense chronic pain was more than he could handle. Having gone through the normal route of physicians, physical therapy, etc. without any relief from pain, Paul decided to do some research in the medical libraries on pain and the mechanisms of pain. Out of that research came an understanding which led to the creation of neuromuscular therapy.
To understand some of how neuromuscular therapy works with the body and the nervous system, it is important to review some of the physiological laws that apply to this work. I will paraphrase each law to make them easier to understand, as well as give a note (in italics) to give relevance to it. I encourage you to search the Internet for each of the laws to get exact wording and further information.
- Righting Reflex - Basically states... The body will do what is necessary to keep your eyes level. For example, if your hip is contracted, causing your low back to curve to the left, your body will naturally make an adjustment to the right so that the head and eyes become level. This correction would probably occur in the upper spine, and you would then most likely be diagnosed with functional scoliosis.
- Pfluger's (5) Laws - Basically state... As a sensory nerve is stimulated in an irritating manner, then irritation and pain will start at the area of stimulation. Given enough time with the irritating stimulation, more of the nervous system becomes involved, which can spread irritation/pain not only to the other side of the body, but can lead to irritation/pain all over the body. If a sensory nerve has been irritated for a while, then the pain will spread throughout the body.
- Law of Facilitation - Basically states... The more the nervous system uses a certain neural pathway, the more likely it will use it again. The longer you have a pain pathway stimulated, the easier it is for the pain to continue or re-occur.
- Davis' Law - Basically states... If the ends of a muscle are brought closer together, the muscle will shorten and become contracted. If the ends of a muscle are taken further away from each other (than is normal), the muscle will become weak. If your posture is distorted, muscles will shorten to take up the slack to support your distortion. When that occurs, the opposed muscles (which are lengthened and weak) can become irritated and painful. In addition, the over contracted muscle can become inflamed, irritated, and painful too!
- Hilton's Law - Basically states... The nerve root that supplies a joint also supplies the muscles and skin that cross the joint. Though harder to understand how this law applies to relieving your pain, it does. If we utilize the body's own nervous system by working more superficially (say at the skin layer), we can positively affect the irritated nerve without working directly in the irritated area.
Physically speaking, neuromuscular therapy work focuses on correcting the alignment of the body, and relieving trigger points and their associated areas.
- Correct alignment of the body is very important to the proper functioning of its various systems. The body can become misaligned in many different ways; accident or injury, poor posture, over-use, etc. Once the body suffers from one misalignment, it will try to protect that area as well as compensate so that you can keep living life (although you might now have pain).
- Trigger points develop in areas of the body that are ischemic (i.e. lacking normal blood supply), and will refer sensation (mostly pain) to another part of the body. Trigger points also tend to be the starting point for nerve irritation. In addition to referring pain, the trigger point itself will likely be tender to the touch.
- Referred areas of pain are other areas of the body that are ischemic that are painful when the associated trigger point is stimulated. Typically this is the area that you feel pain, not where the trigger point is actually located.
If an area is ischemic for a period of time, it is likely to develop into a trigger point and start referring pain to another are of the body. Since the referred area becomes ischemic, it can also turn into a trigger point. In simple terms this means that one trigger point can create more trigger points (called satellite trigger points), which can then create more trigger points. You can see how important it is to get to the source of the problem, and not just treat symptoms. By treating only the area where the symptom occurs, you may not eliminate the trigger point that is causing the symptom.
Neuromuscular therapy is very effective and gives consistent results. By lengthening contracted muscles and relieving other soft tissue restrictions, normal functioning of the area is restored (e.g. normal blood flow, reduction of inflammation, normal loading of the body within gravity, etc.). By working on trigger points and their referred areas, we calm the nervous system and reduce/eliminate the irritation in the sensory nerves. When both of these are accomplished, pain goes away, and you feel dramatically better!