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Massage Today
May, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 05

Understanding Stimulus Response by Engaging with Readers

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB

I open this column with a sincere thank you to all who responded to the last three columns. The responses and discussions have been thoughtful and inspiring. Many of you asked how you could help bring about or implement the suggestions.

In a word, get involved. Oops, that was two words, sorry. Some of you forwarded the columns to your State Massage Boards. Great, keep the heat on. Show up and let them hear your concerns. You will be heard, as very few care enough to show up to give Boards input and without your input, they do the best they can think of at the time. They are good meaning, dedicated volunteers who put in a lot of time and effort. They appreciate input. Get involved. Stimulus is the only way to get a response. Oh, and stay involved.

When our Stakeholder groups meet, they met in secret. The AMTA Board of Directors, who claim to be a member driven association, have kept their agenda secret from members for years now. When all the Stakeholders meet together, it is in secret. It is time we demand transparency and openness from all our Stakeholders and organizations. If what they are doing is so good for us, why can't we know about it? If you have to hide and work in secret you are not serving the profession or the public, you are serving yourselves. Leaders should never be blindly trusted, they must be held accountable, as history shows, power corrupts. Get involved and stay involved. Citizen involvement keeps societies free.

My volunteer time in the AMTA and on the Iowa Board of Massage was not only rewarding and productive, but a very valuable, career enhancing experience. Get involved and stay involved. You will get out of your profession what you put into it. A few passionate, driven people most often change the world. Become one of them.

To my fellow educators of this profession, it is time you get actively involved and lead. If you cannot or feel you dare not endanger your gigs or attendance, join the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) and help support teacher standards and all the work the AFMTE is doing for you. Educators are the "Brain Trust" of our profession and need to be heard. The AFMTE can be your voice if you become active and no one will know it is you, because you become part of the voice of the massage education community. It is a great group to be a part of and to hang with. Get involved. Stay involved.

Masters Passing

A generation of massage educators is reaching the age where they are passing the torch and even leaving the planet. This generation founded the modern massage movement in the U.S. Most are now in their 60's and beyond and many are still doing very well and are very active. Others are slowing down or retiring, and sadly, some are leaving us. For those of you who desire to study with the Masters and to learn from their true wisdom, don't put it off.

A Better Way

It is human nature to look for a better way and to resist changing to it. One of the delights of writing this column is the people who strike up conversations with me about the topics I write on. About 10 years ago, Lawrence Woods, a therapist from Indianapolis, challenged me on a therapy tip I had published. After several correspondences, we agreed we were both right. Our conversations continued and I found him to be quite an innovative therapist who had been trained by the best of the best around the world. As I travel through Indiana frequently, I decided to make an appointment with him and receive some treatment. His work was excellent and I continued to receive therapy from him whenever travel schedules allowed. About five years ago, he revealed to me what he had been researching and working on for a number of years. It was the perfection of a concept that has been around for decades, that I had seen in various forms from time to time, but it never worked consistently or predictably. If it worked, great, if not, you did something else. Lawrence had finally taken this concept and put together a system for treating soft-tissue that is predictable, consistent, painless to the patient and relatively easy on the therapist. Using Sherrington's Second Law, precise kinesiology and anatomy, a lot of insight and thousands of clinic hours of trial and error, he has developed a system that has completely changed the way I approach soft tissue therapy.

After decades of deliberately manipulating the painful muscular tissues of my clients, I found I no longer have to inflict discomfort on my clients to help them feel better or hurt myself in the process. There is no longer any need to cause pain or even "mild discomfort" to change the tonus of muscles. This other approach, which he calls Neural Reset Therapy® or NRT, seems to affect the hypertonicity of muscles much more profoundly than any other method that I'm aware of. I have been a therapist for 28 years and it's only been the past couple years, since learning NRT, that I have been enjoying treating people as much as I did in the beginning years of my career as a massage therapist.

I have felt and taught for some time that massage is a stimulus response mechanism, not as mechanical as some assume. We are stimulating mechano-receptors to elicit the inhibition response back to a target muscle or point. However, we have been walking a fine line between the mechano-receptors and the nociceptors, trying to keep our stimulus strong enough to elicit a response, which requires discomfort for the patient, but not so strong as to cause pain and the resulting protective contraction. I knew there had to be a better way to utilize the body's reciprocal inhibition mechanism in a way that would last beyond the moment of movement to "reset" the tonus of a muscle. Lawrence has achieved that with his NRT. Look interesting? Watch for more explanations of how to better address soft tissue faster and easier than ever before.

Click here for more information about Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB.


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