Physical Rehabilitation Utilizing Manual Therapy Techniques
Neuromuscular Therapy • Postural Balancing • Therapeutic Massage
Many of the practitioners at Integrative Therapies are trained in manual therapy techniques or what is sometimes referred to as bodywork. Although techniques may differ, most forms of manual therapy practiced at the center are aimed at restoring balance and optimal functioning of the neuromuscular system. These therapies can help you become more aware of your body and help you learn strategies to support healing. As you and your therapy team work together to understand your symptoms, you may begin to experience a reduction of your pain problem, or greater freedom from the limitations that have led you to seek treatment.
The relatively new science of mind/body medicine tells us that there is an intricate relationship between our thoughts and emotions and our physical bodies. Research reveals that mental/emotional information is communicated within the body via the release of neurochemicals. Cells in the body have receptor sites for these neurochemicals, thus allowing many systems of the body to "listen in" on our inner conversations. These thoughts and experiences may become "imprinted" into our muscle system, the largest organ system in the body.
Most of us have gone through stressful periods in our life, perhaps noticing too that our bodies have become tense and our muscles tight. Therapeutic massage is an excellent way of influencing the mind/body connection to promote relaxation and support the healing process.
Sometimes physical overload or injury can lead to increased arousal of the neuromuscular system. When muscles stay contracted, blood flow is compromised. The tissue can not receive the oxygen and nutrients that it needs and waste products may accumulate. This condition often leads to muscle tenderness and pain. Fascia tissue which encases and intertwines with the muscles as well as other types of connective tissue, such as ligaments and tendons can thicken and develop adhesions. This can make movement difficult and can even lead to entrapment of a nerve.
Rehabilitation therapists often use a technique called myofascial release or soft tissue mobilization to loosen restricted areas. The body can also develop very sensitive and tender points or trigger points, which can originate from or be made worse by physical overload or emotional stress. Pressure point or neuromuscular therapy may be used to help ease the pain associated with these sensitive areas. For problems lying deeper in the joint structures, gentle joint mobilization may be applied. It is important to remember, however, that most forms of bodywork are not intended to just treat the symptoms but to help address the underlying causes of our discomfort. Sometimes pain in one area may be initiated by a problem in another area or it may represent disharmony in the system as a whole.
Your neuro-muscular-skeletal structure, although incredibly resilient and forgiving, is a finely balanced and tuned system. It can only be "pushed around" (by injuries, accumulated stress or traumas) so much before its internal relationships go too far out of alignment to be spontaneously self-correcting.
To gain a more global perspective on your condition, your therapist may ask questions about your activities and life style, and observe your body movements and posture. Through the assessment process your practitioner can gain an appreciation of which regions of the body are likely to harbor shortened muscles and where there may be joint compression or laxity. During initial bodywork sessions your therapists may be likely to focus on the shortened muscles even though these may not be the areas in which you are experiencing the most pain. This strategy brings the body into alignment most efficiently and typically allows for more enduring positive results.
Most forms of postural balancing and neuromuscular therapy used at the center involve light pressure application of the therapist fingers or hand on the muscle. As your muscle sensory receptors detect the pressure, they send signals to the central nervous system which in turn sends a message to reduce the tension in the muscle. As the tension releases, the muscle softens and the hand sinks deeper, finding the next layer of tension.
At first you might not realize that it is YOUR OWN body making this change, not the therapist. The therapist facilitates making this change, but it is actually YOUR neuromuscular system which makes the change. You will soon discover and enhance your ability to guide your body toward relaxation. Practicing your breathing technique until it is second nature and faithfully and regularly engaging in the stretches and movement exercises that your therapist has identified for you, will both greatly enhance and speed up the release process.
The concept of the EDGE is also very central to your rehabilitation process. In keeping an open channel of communication, your therapist will always want to make sure that he/she is not using pressure past your edge (i.e. beyond your comfort zone). We always want to work in the "ok range" or within that therapeutic window where we can achieve maximum gain with minimal discomfort. The pressure is intended to draw your attention, not create tension!
Another important part of changing the neuromuscular patterns that are reflected in our structure and movement, is to understand what you might be doing that has encouraged or maintained your postural distortion or muscle tension. Your treatment sessions may give you clues, but opening your awareness to your daily life experience and activities (or lack there of) is essential.
Movement therapies offered at the center such as Trager® and Feldenkrais Method® can help facilitate new pathways for optimal use of your body. Sometimes the repatterning techniques that the therapist use to restore function, are called neuromuscular re-education. There are many approaches to supporting healthy change in the mind/body and neuromuscular system. Maintaining therapeutic gains, however requires going beyond the therapy received on the treatment table. Your rehabilitation team will work with you to explore options to help you keep feeling your best.
The classes offered at Integrative Therapies are intended to support you in your rehabilitation process and to give you an opportunity to explore new strategies for wellness. Yoga for Health and the Guidepost Series are designed to help heighten awareness and enjoyment of your body. You can discover how an emotional and physical balance leads to higher levels of health and well-being. For more information on our classes, please click here and for a more detailed listing and description of our massage and bodywork offerings, please refer to the Services section of the website.