What is Neuromuscular Therapy (St. John Method)?
I’m often asked what Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) is, what it can do, and how will it help them. Having taught post graduates (Massage Therapist, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors and Dentists across North America, and parts of Europe and Africa) Neuromuscular Therapy for more than 10 years, it is the base of my treatments with patients. The principles of NMT are the same whether I’m using hands on techniques, or other modalities such as Laser Therapy.
Neuromuscular Therapy is a comprehensive program of soft tissue manipulation techniques that balance the central nervous system (brain, spinal column and nerves) with the structure and form of the musculoskeletal system. NMT is based on neurological laws that explain how the central nervous system maintains homeostatic balance. These same laws dictate how the central nervous system initiates pain response.
There are five principles to Neuromuscular Therapy:
1. Postural Distortion
2. Biomechanical Dysfunctions
3. Trigger Points
4. Nerve Compression/Entrapment
Ischemia is a lack of blood supply to the soft tissues, which causes them to be very sensitive touch.
Trigger Points occur when nerves fire impulses at a rapid speed into an area of the body other than that which has been traumatized. Because of trigger points, the cause of serious pain may often be far from the actual site of the pain. This, in turn, inhibits proper blood flow, which causes ischemia an often leads to more pain and discomfort.
Nerve Compression and Entrapment is pressure on a nerve by bone, cartilage or soft tissue. The role of the soft tissues in nerve compression is vital. Failure to treat the associated soft tissue often treats the symptom without eliminating the cause of the pain. Nerve entrapment is the most common type of pain and always causes ischemia. Ignored, it can produce associated trigger points.
Postural Distortion or muscular contraction occurs when there is an imbalance of the musculoskeletal system resulting from movement of the body off the coronal, midsagital or horizontal planes. When the body tries to compensate in an effort maintain structural balance, muscle contraction, body distortion, and pain result. For example, lower limb-length inequality can cause a tilted pelvis, which usually results in a compensatory scoliosis that is maintained by sustained muscular effort.
Biomechanical Dysfunction is an imbalance of the musculoskeletal system resulting in faulty movement patterns. Repetitive strain of certain soft tissue result in adapted movement patterns that become muscular “habits” and must be reeducated.
How was St. John Therapy Developed?
Paul St. John developed an intense interest in studying and researching soft tissue pain and musculoskeletal dysfunction because of serious injuries he sustained throughout his life. He broke his back in three places in a high school football game, he was shot out of a helicopter as a Green Beret medic in Vietnam, and he was in a head-on automobile collision. For four years he awakened to headaches and unceasing pain. Thousands of dollars in medical expenses left him without relief.
After years of chiropractic, neurology, osteopathy, and even psychiatry, he had found no permanent relief from his pain. This led him to medical libraries where he began to investigate the root causes of pain in the body. He studied pain mechanisms, researched the functioning of the nervous system, and the neurological laws that govern the workings of the body. Through this research he found that most pain conditions stem from the problems in the muscular system.
Armed with this information, he began to study his own body and the pain patterns which had developed from his injuries. During his research, he became familiar with a technique called receptor tonus technique, developed by Dr. Raymond Nimmo, D.C. He found that by pressing on the tissues of his neck, back and shoulders, he was able to get temporary relief. He then began perfecting the receptor tonus technique and, at the same time, began teaching others to treat his tissues. For the first time in four years, he was pain free.
Paul St. John went on to integrate the teachings of many other pioneers in the field of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction including Marianno Racabado, P.T.; Janet Travell, M.D.; John Barnes, P.T.; Dr. John Christopher; Dr. Bernard Jensen, and other orthodox and non-conventional teachers. The result has been the development of the St. John Method of Neuromuscular Therapy.
If you have any questions regarding this technique or any other concerns or inquires you may have feel free to contact me.
Peter Roach, RMT, CNMT, Laser Therapist