Our bodies go through a lot each day, and that’s not even counting the times we do something really strenuous. Therefore, it’s natural that we need some relief and healing now and then, and the best way to get it is by targeting our soft tissues.
There are many forms of treatment and therapy that target this area, but none are as specific as neuromuscular therapy. This precise method of treating soft tissue is used by many different health practitioners, and it offers so much relief for those who use it.
If you’ve yet to experience neuromuscular therapy for yourself, you might be wondering what it’s all about. We’re going to explore this unique style of treatment to see who it’s beneficial for and how exactly it differs from other forms of massage.
What Is Neuromuscular Therapy?
Neuromuscular therapy is a treatment done to the body’s soft tissues, and it’s sometimes referred to as trigger point therapy. The process of NMT involves a thorough examination of the body to find the problem areas, which are then treated by applying pressure to these concentrated areas.
The theory of neuromuscular therapy is that by treating muscles that are in spasm, the pain will be relieved, and in some cases, it could take more than one treatment. Usually, if a muscle is in spasm it will be painful, and even this form of massage can be painful at first.
This pain is a result of something called ischemic muscle tissue, which is when a muscle isn’t receiving an adequate blood flow. Without blood flow, your muscle will not be getting enough oxygen which will cause it to create lactic acid, which is what causes that pain you feel after a really intense workout.
Neuromuscular therapy finds these areas of spasm or tightness and works on them using various massage techniques. The goal is that blood flow is returned to the area, it receives oxygen once again, and the pain is relieved.
The History of Neuromuscular Therapy
The first use of neuromuscular therapy has been traced back to around 1925 in Europe. Stanley Lief, a Latvian man, created a natural healing resort where he began working on this method of treatment. His goal was to create a holistic system that could treat body and mind without relying on any serious medical intervention.
From there, the idea was discovered by Janet Travell, who studied his work and expanded upon it, creating a method called trigger point therapy. Bonnie Prudden, developed further on this during the 1980s and 1990s, and released some books on the treatment, bringing NMT further into the public spotlight.
Today, NMT is used by many different health practitioners including chiropractors, massage therapists, and naturopaths to treat various things. It might be used as a standalone treatment to relieve muscle pain or dysfunction, or could be part of a larger healthcare plan that requires many forms of therapy to get the best result.
How it Differs From Regular Massage Therapy
People often confuse NMT with a standard massage, and although they do use some of the same techniques they are quite different. Massage therapy comes in many different styles, and each of them has its own approach to how a patient is touched, what level of tissue it reaches, and what the purpose of the treatment is. There are massage styles to relax, relieve pain, treat the entire body, or work with just one part of it.
Neuromuscular massage therapy refers to the examination of the body to find these trigger points or points of spasm and then goes about treating them individually. There are a variety of techniques used within a treatment and it has the therapist applying pressure in varying degrees from between 10 to 30 seconds.
Neuromuscular massage therapy is used predominantly on the soft tissue and is about targeting specific points. Patients usually come to a session due to muscle strain or pain, and this is what will be treated during a session.
The Benefits of Neuromuscular Therapy
Similar to other styles of massage, just one treatment of neuromuscular therapy can have many different benefits. These are some things that are commonly gained after a single session of NMT with a trained professional:
- Reduced pain
- Eliminated pain
- Greater range of movement
- Improved strength and flexibility
- Better posture
- Increased blood flow
- Removal of body toxins
- Increased energy and improved moods
There are many types of daily pains that we live with, and often just put up with because we don’t know any better. NMT can treat things like hand tingling, numbness in the legs, muscle spasms, sprains, strains, tendonitis, and whiplash, just to name a few.
Chronic conditions can also be treated with NMT, with the health benefits still being researched. People who suffer from things like sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, and headaches could find great relief from neuromuscular therapy and will likely get better results with ongoing treatment.
What Your Therapist is Doing
The teachings of NMT states that most pain or dysfunction in the body is due to one of three categories. Biomechanical, biochemical, and psychosocial factors each determine the amount of pain you’re feeling and where you feel it. During a session, your therapist might work on just one style of treatment for these categories or will apply all three, depending on the pain or dysfunction.
Before they get started, they will do an in-depth assessment of your body to figure out what might be causing the problem. Here are some common things that NMT works to resolve:
- Ischemia: As discussed earlier, the most common form of spasms due to restricted blood flow.
- Trigger points: myofascial points that are sensitive spots in each muscle.
- Neural entrapment and nerve compression: when pressure has been put on your nerves from other parts of the body, like cartilage and muscles.
- Dysfunctional gait patterns: the way that we walk can cause pain or dysfunction in the body.
- Postural assessment: our natural body posture can affect all parts of the body.
- Other factors: this might include injury, hydration, stress, or nutrition.
What to Expect in A Therapy Session
People got to an NMT appointment not knowing what to expect, and often assuming that it will be like a regular Swedish massage. Some might be surprised to learn that NMT can be painful at first, due to the fact that these particular trigger points are being targeted and they are usually already feeling sensitive.
The first thing that will happen at your appointment is a discussion with the massage therapist. You’ll explain where you’re feeling pain or discomfort, what lead to this problem, how long you’ve been feeling it, and show them the exact spots that are causing you trouble. They’ll assess your body before they begin the session and refer to the factors mentioned earlier, telling you exactly what they’re going to do.
After not long at all, the pain will be relieved in these areas due to the muscle no longer spasming. Once you feel a difference, you can communicate with the massage therapist about how it feels and whether they need to increase or decrease the pressure.
Although it’s meant to be slightly painful, it should feel like the good pain you get from other massage styles. You should never be in serious pain and it would be more of a deep pressure feeling than anything else. Following the massage, it’s also normal to feel sensitive in the areas that were worked on for the next 48 hours.
Soft Tissue Treatment That Heals the Entire Body
Many forms of massage target our soft tissues, and some go even deeper, but none are as specific as neuromuscular therapy. This is the ideal treatment for people who have overused their muscles, are feeling a strain, or have a problem area that needs tending to.
Although it targets the body, many people also find relief mentally and experience lower stress levels following a session. By reliving these problem areas of pain, you can now relax and will likely find that even your mental state feels better as well.
NMT is used today in many different healthcare and medicine professions, and not just by those who only deal with alternative treatments. To get instant and proven relief for your soft tissue spasms, there’s no better choice out there than the healing power of neuromuscular therapy.