When people ask my ‘what type’ of modalities I specialize in – I usually say I’m a neuromuscular therapist. I prefer to use that title rather than massage therapist, because most people will respond with, ‘Oh, you’re a masseuse.’ Um, no! Because I do a lot more than relaxation massage and helping people de-stress (although I do that too). I am more of a pain management specialist.
What is neuromuscular therapy – it is the most effective type of massage therapy for muscle pain, and it is also called trigger point or myotherapy. The American Academy of Pain Management recognizes this form of massage therapy as an effective treatment for pain caused by soft tissue injury (such as a muscle strain), joint pain throughout the body, muscle tension, spasms and injury and/or surgical recovery or addressing trigger points.
Neuromuscular therapy consists of alternating levels of concentrated pressure on the areas of pain, tightness or muscle spasms. The massage therapy pressure is usually applied with the fingers, knuckles, or elbow at a consistent rate (ischemic pressure) on the spots chosen – until the muscle releases. The pressure may continue from 30 secs to several minutes.
Because Neuromuscular therapy is a specialized form of deep tissue massage digital pressure and friction are used to release areas of strain in the muscle for superficially and deep (think joint pain you can’t get rid of), and these areas of strain are called tender or trigger points and are the cause of muscular pain symptoms.
Trigger points are areas of hypersensitivity in a muscle caused by a continual firing of the signals to the muscle that do not allow it to relax between movement (either contraction or stretch). These are small areas with the muscle in which there is a contracture of muscular tissue (think of a tiny grain of rice under a sheet). Blood circulation and nutrients are lacking in that part of the muscle and therefore the muscle spindle is unable to relax. Trigger points cause pain, fatigue and weakness in the muscle. Trigger points also create a phenomenon called referral pain.
Referral pain caused by trigger points can exist in areas far from the trigger point – the best example of this Carpal Tunnel – because the source of the issue is generally in the neck, yet clients come in with pain in their wrist. Additional people suffer from sensations of pain, tingling, or numbness. Examples of referral pain include: sciatica like symptoms (lower leg), lower back pain (from hips and thighs) and headaches (neck).
Neuromuscular therapy is used to treat many different soft tissue problems. The following list is a small example of issues that may be helped by neuromuscular therapy:
Lower back pain, upper back pain, carpal tunnel like symptoms, sciatica like symptoms, hip pain, headaches, plantar fasciitis, calf cramps, tendonitis, knee pain, iliotibial band friction syndrome, jaw pain, tempomandibular joint pain (TMJ disorders).