Neuromuscular Technique (NMT) is a method of soft-tissue palpation which turns into a method of soft-tissue treatment by means of the Chiropractor (or other healthcare provider) increasing the finger pressure being applied to the patient. In using NMT as a method of palpation, the Chiropractor is searching for changes in the soft-tissues. Such changes include “trigger points”.
Trigger points are localised areas of deep tenderness and increased resistance to digital (finger or thumb) pressure. Sometimes, finger pressure on a trigger point will produce twitching (fasiculation) in the muscle around the point. If pressure is maintained on the trigger point, pain will be referred to either an adjacent area or to a more distant area on the body.
Often these areas of referred pain are predictable and various researchers have drawn up maps to show these referral areas. Once found, a trigger point can be treated by an increase in digital pressure. Such an increase in pressure could be held for, say five seconds. The trigger point could be pressed on and released a number of times. Before the Chiropractor continues their search for the next one.
Neuromuscular Technique was begun by Chiropractic Doctor Stanley Lief. Lief was born in Latvia in the 1890s and became a Chiropractor and Naturopath in the USA. In 1925 he set up his own healing resort Champneys at Tring in Hertfordshire. It was here in the 1930s that Lief developed NMT.
Lief, as a Chiropractor, was concerned with manipulating joints and he realised that the integrity of a joint would be greatly affected by the quality of the soft-tissues around it. NMT was Lief’s answer for improving the qualities of the soft-tissues. Over the subsequent years NMT has continued to develop, at first mainly as a family business. Key figures included have included Stanley Lief’s son Peter Lief who was a Chiropractor, Naturopath and Osteopath.
Stanley Lief’s cousin Boris Chaitow, also a Chiropractor, Naturopath and Osteopath. Further development has come in the USA from massage therapists Paul St. John and Judith Water. Leon Chaitow, an Osteopath, has perhaps been the person most responsible for bringing NMT to the attention of professional therapists through his many books and his lecturing.
Leon Chaitow has integrated NMT into a treatment sequence with Positional Release Technique (PRT) and Muscle Energy Technique (MET). In a nutshell, first of all a trigger point is found by NMT palpation. Finger or thumb pressure is then applied to the trigger point to treat it.
The muscle housing the trigger point is then put into a a “position of ease” where the muscle is put into a slack position and often further compressed shorter still. Finally, it is to be hoped at this stage that the muscle has “let go” enough that it is now amenable to being lengthened. This is done by means of muscle lengthening via MET. This three technique process has been labelled by Chaitow Integrated Neuromuscular Inhibition Technique (INIT).
INIT is an extremely comprehensive and thorough approach. It’s rival, in terms of comprehensiveness, is Active Release Techniques (ART). ART is not a trigger point system. It focuses more on reducing tissue fibrosis and increasing soft-tissue elasticity. However, it is generally believed that trigger points can’t really exist in a muscle that is capable of fully lengthening.
So, ART does indirectly treat trigger points as the muscles are actively brought by the patient to their full length. Chiropractor Andrew Hunter’s point of view on these two systems is that ART is generally much quicker to use in the clinic and generally gets very good results.
However, it does rely on the patient being able to lengthen the muscle actively. This is not always possible in very painful and / or acute cases. If the patient is not able to move then the trigger point treatment of NMT plus Positional Release Technique really come into their own.
Chiropractor Andrew Hunter studied Neuromuscular Technique in 2000 and 2002 with Leon Chaitow when Chaitow was lecturing at the University of Westminster. If you would like to experience Neuromuscular Technique at one of Andrew Hunter’s three London Clinics (Blackheath, Canary Wharf or City) please call him on 07855916602.