Neuromuscular therapy is a form of massage used to treat and prevent tissue injuries and chronic pain. These massage techniques manipulate muscles, tendons and connective tissues to heal and balance the central nervous system. Injury and various traumas may cause pain and interfere with nerve transmitters; neuromuscular therapy works to stabilize neurological activity and repair soft tissue function.
Developed by chiropractors Stanley Lief and Boris Chaitow, neuromuscular therapy emerged in Europe during the 1930’s. Neuromuscular therapy became a common method of treating sports injuries and pain, and as the method grew in popularity, it began to emerge in the United States. Eventually, a detailed system called the five point technique was developed in the 1980’s by Dr. Janet Travell, M.D. and Dr. David Simmons, M.D. The method created a detailed approach to neuromuscular therapy by addressing trigger points in the myofascial tissue and drawing an outline of five basic elements that cause physical pain. The breakthroughs with neuromuscular massage began to widely impact therapeutic communities, and the five point technique became the modern version of neuromuscular therapy.
The first element identified as a pain source is ischemia. Ischemia refers to a lack of blood flow to the soft tissues which results in a hypersensitivity to touch. Those suffering with ischemia may experience frequent bruising, temperature sensitivities and a consistent underlying feeling of pain in the skin and bones.
The second element addresses trigger points: highly irritated areas in the muscles that result in pain throughout other areas in the body. This often develops as a tight, knotty area in a muscle that places added tension on the rest of the muscle. Hard, tense spots in the muscles tend to require intense, concentrated pressure applied directly to the tough spot on the muscle and may take several sessions to completely release.
The third element of pain deals with nerve compression or entrapment. Nerve compression occurs when soft tissue or cartilage places pressure on a nerve. This may occur as the result of disc degeneration or bone loss caused by osteoporosis.
Postural distortion is the fourth source of pain and is caused by harsh or jarring body movements. The muscular system often becomes imbalanced due to the body moving unnaturally off of the horizontal and longitudinal planes. Car accidents tend to be the most common cause of postural distortion.
The fifth element results from biomechanical dysfunction. Biomechanical dysfunction occurs as the result of faulty movement habits, such as typing or an ergonomically incorrect golf swing. These repeated movements eventually may cause an imbalance in the musculoskeletal system.
The five physiological factors that may be causing pain are addressed by implementing a recovery program that utilizes specific massage therapy, builds flexibility and balances the nervous system. Neuromuscular therapy uses massage to focus directly on detailed areas that may be causing pain. The techniques used in this type of therapy focus on massaging tendons, ligaments and connective tissues in detail. The thumbs and fingertips are often used to release tight muscle fibers or hidden areas that often go unnoticed with other forms of massage.