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My View From Here

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCTMB

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Making Things Better

If something has been done the same way for 100 or more years, chances are there are new and better ways to do it now that should be considered. While some things never change (and shouldn't), occassionally someone does get an inspiration and truly advances the way to do something. Change is usually slow to be accepted. However, the new thing or method, if valid, slowly becomes accepted, first by the "early adopters" and then by the majorities. Trends always start slow and grow.

We have been doing massage the same way for a long time. When it comes to "just" eliciting a parasympathetic response, the same old way is still valid - lots of effleurage gets the job done. However, most people that come to get a massage have some pain complaint they would like relief from. For 30+ years, our primary tool for addressing "tender points" and "trigger points" has been some form of sustained pressure. Sometimes slight movement was added such as deep friction strokes or superficial myofascial techniques. These techniques have been the main weapons therapists have employed against soft-tissue pain. This is the American Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) paradigm as developed and taught by Paul St. John starting in the mid-1980's. While effective, it is unpleasant to receive and often damaging to therapist's bodies.

Making Things Better - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark In the 1980's, we knew the primary soft-tissue problem was the involuntary contraction (spasm) causing ischemia and thus pain. Science eventually discovered sensors in the nervous system called mechanoreceptors which when stimulated, could elicit an inhibition response back to their locale in the body. There are many types of mechanoreceptors, each responding to a different type of mechanical stimuli. In most clinical and relaxation massage, we have been stimulating, through our touch, pressure, and movement, only a few types of mechanoreceptors. Primarily the Ruffini End-organs and Interstitial mechanoreceptors that respond to sustained pressure. However, as we tend to apply our sustained pressure in a spot about the size of a thumb, we illicit a relaxation response back to about that sized area. This is wonderful when treating an
isolated contraction like a trigger point, but it is inadequate when trying to relax a muscle that is hypertonic throughout.

There had to be a better way to stimulate the nervous system to down-regulate hypertonic muscles. For decades, people have been trying to utilize the body's reciprocal inhibition mechanisms but were unable to achieve consistent and complete results. They were missing several key approaches necessary to get reciprocal inhibition to create complete and lasting change in a particular (target) muscle. Finally, just like someone had the insight to invent Velcro, an accomplished therapist, Lawrence Woods from Indiana, had the insights that allow massage therapists to quickly and easily stimulate the nervous system in such a way to relax an entire muscle and actually "reset" the local nervous system, normalizing the tonus in an entire muscle, usually within seconds. Not only is it easy to learn, its quick, pain free, and physically easy to perform. Results last as long or longer than traditional massage methods.

This system is called Neural Reset Therapy (NRT). Applicable to pain relief and for athletic performance enhancement therapies, NRT is utilizing up to six types of mechanoreceptors at once, through gentle movements and stimuli. It is truly working smarter instead of harder. A full NRT session creates a much deeper, longer lasting relaxation response than traditional clinical massage treatments. It requires no lubricants and can be done through clothing.

A truly amazing advancement in soft –tissue treatment, NRT is based entirely on neurological laws and anatomical, physiological, and kinesiological principles. It integrates into and with any other styles and forms of massage and bodywork. You owe it to yourself and your patients to learn NRT. It is growing practices by getting people out of pain. It is increasing career lives of veteran therapists because it is so easy to perform.

Check out this evolutionary soft –tissue therapy process at:

Viva Volunteers

Two columns ago, I very poorly expressed a thought and painted with too broad a brush. I was pointing out the internal focus of AMTA-National and managed to offend many chapter volunteers. I was not intending to criticize chapter volunteers and I do not have a problem with them being compensated for their out-of-pocket expenses while serving. They earn it. Please accept my apology.

I commend all the volunteers in this profession and I assure you that most all of them will tell you that their volunteered time was challenging, but enriching and very beneficial to their lives and careers. My volunteer time in AMTA, AFMTE, and the Iowa Board of Massage were the best investments I made in my career. You must get involved to make a difference. All change requires growth and all growth is painful, but nothing ever gets better without change, be it organizations, careers, or individuals. Don't complain, get involved and be the change. Get involved in your state massage board and/or your AMTA state chapter. The establishment will welcome you until you challenge them. So, get involved, become valuable, and then start raising hell. You will make a difference and it is time for change to come – volunteer to be all you can be. Don't volunteer to serve the status quo, volunteer to change it and make life better for all, except the establishment.

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